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Spring 5777/2017




Vol. 77, No. 3 • $5.50




Jerusalem Reunited: 50 Years

Cover photo courtesy of the Israel Government Press Office Cover: Andrés Moncayo










Ben Zion Shenker: The Unsung Composer of the Songs We All Sing By David Olivestone Personal Memories of a Modern-Day Sweet Singer of Israel By Tzvi Hersh Weinreb



Excelling in Faith By Avraham Edelstein


02 08 10 14


In Search of Religious Growth By Mark (Moishe) Bane

FROM THE DESK OF ALLEN I. FAGIN “Bayamim Hahem, Bazman Hazeh”:

Some Reflections on Modern Miracles


38 46 56

82 85 90 98

The Future of Reproductive Medicine: What Does Halachah Say? By John D. Loike, et al. Children After Divorce By Avigail Rosenberg The Data on Divorce: Q & A with Dr. Yitzchak Schechter

60 62

Pesach Getaway Without Gaining By Shira Isenberg


A Different Twist on Pesach! By Norene Gilletz


The Satmar Rebbe and His English Principal: Reflections on the Struggle to Build Yiddishkeit in America By Rabbi Hertz Frankel Reviewed by David Luchins

Advice from the Experts: How to Stay (Happily) Married for Life By Bayla Sheva Brenner



Lemon Flavored and Very, Very Sweet: Honest Reflections of a Child of Divorce By Tzippora Price


The Scars of Divorce By Tzippora Price

100 102 104

What Was the First Notable Rabbinical Portrait in Western Art? By Phillip Greenspan and Annelies Mondi

Rashi: The Magic and the Mystery By Avigdor Bonchek Reviewed by Yitzchak Etshalom Modern Orthodox Judaism: A Documentary History (JPS Anthologies of Jewish Thought) By Zev Eleff Reviewed by Leonard Matanky

LASTING IMPRESSIONS Refusing to Pass Over Pesach By Steve Lipman

Jewish Action seeks to provide a forum for a diversity of legitimate opinions within the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism. Therefore, opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the policy or opinion of the Orthodox Union. Jewish Action is published by the Orthodox Union • 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004 212.563.4000. Printed Quarterly—Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, plus Special Passover issue. ISSN No. 0447-7049. Subscription: $16.00 per year; Canadian, $20.00; Overseas, $60.00. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Jewish Action, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION



JA RESPONSIBLE FOR FAMILY REUNION I am writing to express my appreciation to Jewish Action for publishing “Unbroken Faith: American Jewish Families Who Defied the Odds” by writer Bayla Sheva Brenner (spring 2016). I was so delighted to read the article, which featured the family of my great-uncle, Peretz Scheinerman. As a result of the article I, along with three cousins, decided to arrange a family reunion, and invited the descendants of Yitzchok Aryeh Scheinerman, the family patriarch, who had emigrated to the US in the 1880s from Russia. The reunion took place this past September in Baltimore and was attended by over ninety people from all over the US. We re-connected with relatives we had not seen in many years, and met some relatives we had never met before. I proudly distributed copies of the Jewish Action article to everyone, without which this wonderful simchah would never have happened. Gloria Golbert Princeton, New Jersey Scheinerman family members hold up the issue of Jewish Action that features the article about their family. Letter writer Gloria Golbert is standing, top left. Photo: Esky Cook


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MILLENNIALS AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY SYNAGOGUE Re “Orthodox Millennials: Understanding the New Generation,” (fall 2016), the millennial generation remains a puzzle synagogues have yet to fully put together. From what I observe, there are very few activities that Upper West Side millennials do that last more than 2.5 hours. Moreover, there are few clubs they are willing to join. Both the standard annual membership model and the lengthy services synagogues offer are often inconsistent with modern-day living. The success of our Modern Orthodox shuls will depend upon our ability to remain relevant in three areas: administrative functioning, marketing and content. Our synagogue has spent much time discussing the possibility of moving to a monthly membership model to be more consistent with the modern experience (each month I pay my cell phone bill and synagogue bill, et cetera). Similarly, we have been considering diversifying our portals of entry to cater to the millennial (such as a collaborative online Shabbat HaGadol derashah preparation through Facebook). Learning from the success of college campus programs like OU-JLIC and Hillel should inform our style of leadership, governance and Torah 2

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Chief Institutional Advancement Officer

Arnold Gerson

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education. We have much reason for optimism because the Modern Orthodox community is uniquely positioned to embrace the innovations of general society in creating space for meaningful spiritual engagement with millennials. Rabbi Yechiel Shaffer Congregation Ohab Zedek Manhattan, New York

THE GIFT OF LIFE Bayla Sheva Brenner’s piece on kidney donation (“The Kidney Connection: The Lifesaving Power of Jewish Unity” [winter 2016]) was beautiful and touching. It described individuals showing the highest level of mesirut nefesh for another Jew. In giving one of their kidneys to another individual, the donors were fulfilling the Talmudic dictum: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” Barbara Barry Jerusalem, Israel STANDING FOR A CHATAN AND KALLAH I read with interest the recent article by Rabbi Dr. Ari Z. Zivotofsky (“What’s the Truth About Standing for a Chatan and Kallah?” [winter 2016]). Rabbi Zivotofsky faithfully demonstrates the misconception about an obligation to stand for a chassan and kallah walking towards their chuppah. But he misses another reason for standing; i.e., for the parents who are escorting the chassan and kallah to the chuppah. Just as there is an obligation to stand for those performing the mitzvah of escorting a body for a burial (as Rabbi Zivotofsky quotes from YD 361:4), there is an equivalent obligation to stand for those performing the mitzvah of escorting the chassan and kallah to their chuppah. (This is the literal fulfillment of the mitzvah of hachnassas chassan vekallah). One other example is standing for the kvatter carrying an infant to his bris (see Chiddushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger, YD 265:1). The only reason the case of chassan and kallah is not mentioned by the posekim is that, as Rabbi Zivotofsky mentions, the custom was always to stand at a chuppah. During a chuppah ceremony where the chassan leaves the chuppah to greet the kallah and they walk together to the chuppah, the obligation to stand ceases when the parents have left the scene. This is because the chassan and kallah themselves are not doing a mitzvah at the time (unless one is of the opinion that each is performing the mitzvah of accompanying the other to the chuppah). Rabbi Abba Zvi Naiman Baltimore, Maryland

DISAPPOINTING REVIEW I was disappointed with Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s attempts to sanitize Rabbi Meir Kahane’s ideology in his review of

Rabbi Meir Kahane: His Life and Thought, Volume Two: 1976-1983, which appeared in the fall 2016 issue. Rabbi Kahane was perhaps best known for advocating the forcible removal of non-Jewish residents of Eretz Yisrael. Libby Kahane’s biography is quite frank about this. The back cover of the book includes Rabbi Kahane’s assertion that “[if] stones are thrown from an Arab village, the entire village should be banished to Jordan.” The book also mentions how Rabbi Kahane wrote a book advocating stripping all Israeli Arabs of their citizenship, paying some Arabs to leave and forcibly deporting others. Rabbi Dr. Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s review avoids presenting these extremist ideas fully or honestly. He writes euphemistically about how Rabbi Kahane advocated “enabling [Arabs] to emigrate,” when in fact Rabbi Kahane also advocated forcing Arabs to emigrate. The review claims that Rabbi Kahane “was not advocating harming Arabs,” as if the sort of ethnic cleansing that he proposed could be carried out without enormous brutality and harm to innocents. As the electoral failures of Rabbi Kahane and his followers demonstrate, the vast majority of Israelis reject his political views. The vast majority of Religious Zionist posekim reject Rabbi Kahane’s halachic opinion that the Torah mandates expelling Israeli Arabs, relying instead on the sources cited by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, who envisioned a halachic state in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians would live together in peace. Regardless of their merits, Rabbi Kahane’s ideas deserve to be presented honestly.  Jules Szanton Washington, DC   Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff begins his latest review of Libby Kahane’s biography of her late husband by quoting the Gemara’s assertion that wives experience the death of their husbands in a way that no other person can appreciate. Indeed, it is not surprising, nor is it objectionable, that the widow of a murdered husband would write a biography in honor of her husband and in support of their shared ideological commitments. It was surprising to me, however, to read yet a second review of this multi-volume biography by Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff that echoes so much of Rabbi Kahane's rhetoric and perspective with only the faintest words of critical evaluation or historical context. Rabbi Meir Kahane did indeed identify fault lines between Judaism and democracy that lie at the heart of life in Israel. And Rabbi Kahane did notice the deleterious impact of an aggressive ethos of secularism upon Jewish Israelis that created a generation of amaratzim robbed of so many of the riches of their Jewish birthright. But contrary to what one might conclude from Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s review, Rabbi Kahane was not the first to notice these tensions. Indeed, explorations of those very tensions fill volumes of the writings of the intellectual and political leadership of the Zionist and Religious Zionist movements for more than a century (going back to the Netziv’s correspondence with Leon Pinsker during the first shemittah controversy in 1888). Nor did Rabbi Kahane formulate useful strategies to resolve these tensions. To paraphrase Lessing, Rabbi Kahane’s helpful observations were not original, and that which was original to him (his radical solutions) were not helpful. Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


None of the positive changes in Israeli society during the past thirty years, such as greater integration of religious Jews into the army and greater Torah knowledge and Jewish literacy among secular Jews, has anything whatsoever to do with Rabbi Kahane’s activism or provocations. If, as Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff suggests, there is greater reception today for Rabbi Kahane’s views than a generation ago, that should be a cause for deep cheshbon hanefesh and for marshaling the intellectual leadership of our community to respond and confront those ideas, as was done a generation ago by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, among others, when he insisted that Israel investigate the massacres in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps perpetrated by Israel’s Arab Christian allies. None of that effort can be found, unfortunately, in Rabbi Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s gentle and admiring review. Rabbi David Wolkenfeld Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation Chicago, Illinois BDS-niks, J-Street-ers and the like owe Jewish Action a debt of gratitude for providing them with a stick with which to beat Religious Zionism and Israel. In the uncritical and laudatory review of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the reviewer’s observation that “a Religious

Zionist will essentially agree with most of [Rabbi Kahane’s] viewpoints and criticisms” is representative of the tone of the review and also a priceless sound bite for anti-Israel activists.  Is it accurate that Religious Zionism agrees with Rabbi Kahane on core issues: opposition to democracy and ethnic cleansing of Arabs from the Land of Israel? Do the potential expellees include the Israeli-Arab diplomats, TV reporters, jurists and scientists featured in various hasbara efforts, as well as the many other decent and productive Arab-Israelis? Does it include the Israeli Arabs who serve in the IDF alongside the nephew of Rabbi Kahane? I believe that the answer to those questions for mainstream Religious Zionists is “no.” Marc Hess Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia    RABBI DR. AARON RAKEFFET-ROTHKOFF RESPONDS My goal in writing the review of Libby Kahane’s second book was to enable the reader to gain some insight into the volume’s contents and the period it encompasses. I did not aim to author a critique of Meir Kahane’s total ideology or to expound upon my personal outlook. It was simply a review of the new volume and its content. Albeit, I will address the overall tone of the critical correspondence.


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

I would not consider this work as hagiographic. I am fully aware that such books abound in our circles. However, in this book Libby Kahane has published voluminous detailed footnotes verifying the events described. I have elsewhere written about Rabbi Meir Kahane’s role in Bnei Akiva in the Bronx during the 1950s (cf. From Washington Avenue to Washington Street, s.v. index). He had a deep influence upon me, my wife, my brother and many others. He inspired us with a love of Zion and the vision of living a dedicated life in the Holy Land. Many in our circle would later achieve these goals. However, this does not indicate that we agreed with the totality of his viewpoints. We certainly did not favor acting beyond the law and the democratic character of the Israeli reality. I thought my review made clear that I personally contend that conflicts between Judaism and democracy must be resolved within the structure of contemporary Israeli society and not in a partisan fashion. I consider the example I cited to be quite relevant. Decades ago, a yeshivah student was advised not to serve in the IDF because he would not rise in rank due to his religious lifestyle. Today Meir’s own nephew is a brigadier general in the IDF. I would summarize my attitude as being in accordance with the Talmudic concept that “we can divide a single statement into diverse applications” (Gittin 8b). In some areas I agree with my mentor from Bnei Akiva, in others I have reached my own conclusions and viewpoints.

GUN CONTROL IN HALACHAH I read with great interest Rabbi Joshua Flug’s piece on “Gun Control in Halachah” (summer 2016). Rabbi Flug’s halachic analysis, while erudite, seems to have had a very narrow focus—namely the selling of arms to non-Jews. While he correctly asserts that the Talmud’s authors lived in barbaric times, thus requiring halachic stringencies on the selling of arms, he omits any halachic references to the ownership of weapons themselves (save for the issue of Shabbat). He does, however, offer a blanket assertion: “Jewish law does not guarantee anyone’s right to bear arms and such a right plays no role in the Talmudic discussion.” In fact, I posit that the opposite is true. Jewish law does not infringe on anyone’s right to bear arms. The Torah records for posterity in perhaps the boldest expression of freedom “. . . and the Children of Israel went up armed out of the land of Egypt” (Shemot 13:18). No longer under Pharaoh’s lash, no longer under a taskmaster’s whip, the Bnei Yisrael were now free men. With Hashem’s command and under Moshe’s leadership, they took up arms against the Amalekites (Shemot 8:8-17), the Midianites (Bamidbar 31:1-10) and the mighty kingdoms of Sichon and Og (Devarim 2:31-37, 3:1-4). The great shofet Ehud ben Gerah carried a concealed weapon and smote Eglon the king of Moav (Shoftim 3:17). Recall also that the ancient Philistines sought to limit the ability of the Jews to create weapons, thereby maintaining their dominion and control

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over them (I Shmuel 13:19-22). While the Jews in ancient Persia were afforded the right to take up arms against those who would destroy them (Esther 8:11; 9:1-6), this was not the norm; we celebrate that miracle to this day. The Talmud (Shabbat 63a) prohibits the wearing or carrying of a sword, bow, shield, mace or spear on Shabbat. Rabbi Eliezer disagrees and believes weapons to be an adornment (Tehillim 45:4). The Chachamim reiterate the prohibition and state that those who wear weapons on Shabbat are worthy of scorn. As a matter of fact, this is normative halachah (Rambam, Hilchot Shabbat 19:1; SA, OC 301:7). Shabbat, a sublime time of universal peace, enlightenment, tranquility and holiness that is our aspirational model of Olam Haba or Yemot HaMashiach, is incongruous with weapons of war and destruction. However, in the ensuing Talmudic discussion, nowhere is a prohibition mentioned against Jews owning or carrying weapons when it is not Shabbat. Furthermore, in cases where weapons were necessary for the performance of a mitzvah—for example, saving a life as in the case of a rodef (Rambam, Hilchot Rotze’ach 1:7-8)—weapons were carried and used on Shabbat. Moreover, the Rambam (Hilchot Geneivah 9:7-13) discusses the laws of an intruder and how they pertain to a homeowner’s right to protection and self-defense, even on Shabbat (Shabbat 9:7). Moreover, the Rishonim—the Rambam, the Ran, the Nimukei Yosef and the Ritva, all cited in Rabbi Flug’s essay—lived in a time no less brutal than Talmudic times due to Crusades, pogroms, expulsions, et cetera. Jews were barred from owning weapons and often relied on various lords and knights for their protection (Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 9:9). Indeed, questions of sales and accountability took on serious halachic import. Less relevant was the question of owning or using weapons. Therefore “extrapolating” a Talmudic prohibition on weapon ownership based on stringencies placed on sales of weapons to gentiles is tenuous at best. I would also caution against taking the seeming apologetics of the Chavot Yair and Chayei Adam at face value and applying it to this day and age. Though the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were by no means medieval, the assertion that “nowadays, we live in civilized societies and we don’t have to suspect that any non-Jew will attempt to murder us” rings hollow after the unprecedented barbarism of the twentieth century. A. Schreiber, MD Brooklyn, New York We found Rabbi Flug’s analysis of the timely issue of gun control fascinating, and would like to respond to two points. First, in analyzing the Talmud’s attitude towards weapons, Rabbi Flug refers to Avodah Zarah’s discussion of selling weapons to non-Jews and commentaries relating to this point. This seems to be an oblique approach to the issue, because there the question is the permissibility of Jews selling arms to non-Jews. Rabbi Flug does not mention a direct inference from this gemara: if it is prohibited to sell weapons to potentially hostile non-Jews, and it is permitted to sell weapons to friendly Persians, then surely it is permissible for Jews to sell weapons to Jews!   There are several other passages in the Talmud that also seem to imply that it is normal for non-criminal Jews to own weapons. In 6

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Makkot 10a, a baraita discusses “gun-free zones”: “And we may not sell in those [cities of refuge] weapons or hunting gear; the words of Rabbi Nechemiah—but the Sages permit it.” Rabbi Nechemiah was concerned that the Jewish blood-avenger would be able to purchase weapons in the refuge city, or would blend in among others with weapons; however, the rabbis rejected the weapon-free zone. Here we see that Jews are allowed to sell weapons to Jews, even in a city of refuge.    In Yoma 45a, we learn that Jews may take up their arms and carry them outside of the city on Shabbat in order to defend against a pending attack by non-Jews, and in Hilchot Shabbat 3:23, Rambam goes so far as to say that it is an obligation to defend one’s fellow Jews on Shabbat. It is not entirely clear that the baraita and Rambam speak only of standing armies or professional soldiers; in Yoma it seems that the Jews who are able to should form a sort of militia—they are not relying on the benevolent Persians in this scenario. Private ownership of arms by Jews seems to be understood.   In Sanhedrin 72, the case of the tunneling thief is discussed—the original “Castle Doctrine.” The rabbis permit the homeowner to use lethal force to defend himself—implying that the homeowner may have the means to do so—and go so far to state that the thief may be killed by any means necessary. Would the rabbis have required a homeowner to go up unarmed against a dangerous thief? Secondly, Rabbi Flug writes that there is no such concept as a right to keep and bear arms in Jewish law. It seems to us that there is room for an interpretation that does imply a reasonable right to keep and bear arms. The Torah protects Jewish life, by allowing Jews to kill in self-defense, and therefore establishes a “right to live,” as in the case of the tunneling thief. If we are allowed to use lethal force to defend our lives, then it is reasonable that we should normally have the right to own the means to do so. Moses Fridman West Bloomfield, Michigan Rabbi Aharon Yablonovsky Baltimore, Maryland RABBI JOSHUA FLUG RESPONDS I thank the letter writers for their comments. It is important to distinguish between a right and a permission. For example, kavod habriyot, human dignity might be viewed as a right and therefore, the rabbis waived any requirement to follow rabbinic laws that conflict with human dignity (Berachot 19b). By contrast, according to Torah law, it is permissible to play musical instruments on Shabbat. However, it is not a right and therefore, when the rabbis were concerned that it would lead to the desecration of Shabbat, they were authorized to prohibit it on Shabbat. The many sources quoted by the letter writers prove that, historically speaking, it was permissible for Jews to own weapons and when they had the ability to bear arms, it was seen as positive. At times, it may have even been obligatory to do so. However, it doesn’t prove that every Jew had a right to bear arms. In fact, the case of mashmuta (Jewish bandit) cited by the Gemara (and mentioned in the article) proves that when there is cause for concern, we don’t provide weapons even to Jewish individuals. The “right to

bear arms” in US law is a right and in order to restrict someone from bearing arms, there must be due process under the law. Consider, for example, the recent “no fly, no buy” debate that took place in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. This is not true according to Jewish law. The thesis of the article is that the rabbis of the Talmud and the Rishonim (as most evident in the comments of Nimmukei Yosef) took a common sense approach to the distribution of weapons. If their distribution would lead to a safer society, then their distribution is permissible, and if not, then it is prohibited. They did not provide anyone with a natural right to own a weapon. The citation of Chavot Yair and Chayei Adam must also be understood in the context of the thesis of the article. Their comments are not apologetics but pragmatics. In earlier times, the rabbis instituted a series of safeguards when interacting with non-Jews because there was a legitimate concern that a Jew who was not cautious may get murdered. Chavot Yair and Chayei Adam are pointing out that we live in safer times and those safeguards can be eased. If one assumes that this is mere apologetics, then these restrictions would apply and many of our personal interactions with people outside of the Jewish community would be very limiting. However, it seems that common practice is to be lenient on this matter. Yet, as I pointed out in the article, that doesn’t allow one to discard the general concern for safety of society and society has a responsibility to determine what is safest with regards to distribution of weapons.

I most certainly appreciate the concern for the “unprecedented barbarism of the twentieth century,” and there definitely are Jews who own guns because of this very concern. However, the article is not about whether a Jew may own a gun out of concern for a wave of anti-Semitism. The article is about providing perspectives on how a Jewish person might apply Jewish values to the gun control debate that is prevalent in US society. If one could somehow show that tightening gun control laws would make society as a whole safer, but at the same time, put Jews at a greater risk for anti-Semitic attacks, then the Talmudic discussion might be applied differently. However, those who advocate for Jews owning guns to protect from anti-Semitism are likely of the belief that looser gun control laws can make society as a whole safer. Correction: Due to an editing error, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff's review in the winter issue incorrectly stated that Rabbi Meir Kahane advised a student not to enter the IDF, as he would never be able to advance because he was religious. It was Rabbi Yissachar Meir (1927-2010), the founder and head of Yeshivat HaNegev, who gave that advice.

NOWHERE BUT HERE At Yeshiva University, there are no sacrifices. YU is the full college experience, with an exceptional education, countless opportunities to engage outside the lecture hall and a caring community that meets individual needs. Achieving their academic, recreational and spiritual goals is why YU students meet with outstanding success. Applying to graduate programs and entering their chosen careers, 94% (44 students) were admitted to medical school, 96% (27 students) to dental school and 100% (60 students) to law school in the past year. With unparalleled faculty and Jewish resources, YU offers it all—including $42 million in scholarships and financial assistance benefiting 79% of students.


Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION





t recently occurred to me that I may actually have the talent to be a brilliant sculptor. Then I figured that I likely do not. In any event, I will probably never find out. When I was a child, my parents, a”h, had me take music lessons and after-school Talmud tutorials. I was enrolled in the shul choir and in the school’s drama club. But sculpturing was never on the agenda. I discovered that I was neither a musical prodigy nor a Talmudic genius, and my vocal and acting skills never amounted to much. Even my many years of endless hockey playing left me with little, other than a broken arm, plenty of bruises and tons of fun. Both as children and as adults, we must make choices among the overload of activities, interests and responsibilities competing for our time and attention. When we are younger, the choices are often between alternative academic interests, between school and sports or between sports and hanging out. When we are really


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young, our parents determine which skills and talents we develop simply by choosing the schools and camps we attend and selecting our after-school activities. As adults, the competition for our time and attention becomes even fiercer. We endlessly struggle to juggle our myriad responsibilities. Finding the time we need, and want, to spend with our children, spouse and parents is a losing battle. The time and psychic energy spent at work seems to be ever increasing, and the likelihood of earning enough ever decreasing. When adding time for davening, commuting, eating and sleeping, twentyfour hours are way too few for a single day. Certainly, there is little time for unwinding, and even less time for socializing. With these, and many other, unavoidable responsibilities and demands, I often wonder how there can possibly be time for one to focus on religious growth. And when making choices for our children, are we preparing them for lifelong spiritual growth—or just casual observance? Is spirituality even on my radar screen, or do I satisfy my time allocation to Judaism by davening, even if it is often way too fast and with far too little focus? Can I buy my way into religious adequacy by writing a bigger check to the local day school or chesed organization? And what about learning Torah? Can I check that box, even if I so often merely scan the words and watch the time, waiting for the shiur to conclude or the page of Talmud to be completed? All too often, while learning Talmud, I do not feel connected to the concepts or to the text on the page and frequently, I am unable to

perceive the religious experience that is supposedly taking place. I know life is all about my soul, its nurturing and growth. I know Judaism is all about developing a relationship with God. But where is the time? And even when I find some time, how do I make the time meaningful and actually develop this relationship? If I have difficulties getting into the groove of religious growth, is it any wonder that, when teaching Judaism to my children, I am not placing lifelong spiritual growth on their radar screens? I never got the impression that my parents had this dilemma, despite their work and other obligations being more demanding and stressful than mine. Our parents’ generation, however, had much reason for their Judaism to be real. They were not merely observant, even if they grew up in Orthodox homes. They chose to be observant, often going against the tide. Some of my parents’ closest friends, and most of their peers, were not shomer Shabbos. Many of my friends’ parents were Holocaust survivors, having spent their formative years in ghettos and Nazi death camps. Their religious experience was real because their choices were real. They witnessed both the devastation of European Jewry and the subsequent birth of the State of Israel. To them, the creation of a Jewish state was neither a romantic vision nor a historical recollection. It was a living miracle. Though many of that generation understandably lost their faith, for those who retained their belief in the divinity of Torah, God was immensely relevant, and their relationship with Him was real and intense.

We, on the other hand, never had to confront such choices. Aside from the community’s baalei teshuvah, we have always been observant; almost all of our friends through high school, and for some of us, even beyond high school, have been observant. It is, therefore, no surprise that we have always viewed ourselves as comfortably ensconced in the Orthodox community. Our Orthodox identity is the almost inevitable result of having attended Orthodox Jewish schools and camps, and having spent Shabbos afternoons in religious youth groups among similarly minded peers. Not being theologians, and some of us not being all that thoughtful to begin with, we rarely engage in profound philosophical or deeply religious struggles. That is not to say that we do not find observing certain details of halachah very difficult, but these struggles are challenges of discipline and never threaten the essence of our commitment to be observant. In fact, personally, I cannot imagine being more content living otherwise. Both socially and culturally, I am simply most comfortable living as an Orthodox Jew. It is my identity; it is who I am. But is simply living as an Orthodox Jew itself religious growth? If it is, why doesn’t it feel that way? In January of this year I assumed the office of president of the Orthodox Union. Through the OU’s role in kashrus, advocacy,

and myriad other spheres, it has enhanced the experience of being an observant Jew in North America. I propose that the OU now also encourage and assist us, American Orthodox Jews, in pursuing more vigorous growth in our religious lives. For decades, the OU’s Yachad/NJCD has been a leader in providing opportunities and avenues for developmentally disabled members of the Jewish community to grow in their religious commitment and passion. Similar work is being done by NCSY for both affiliated and unaffiliated Jewish teens and by the Heshe & Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) for Orthodox university students on secular campuses. Fifteen years ago, I was privileged to serve as national chairman of NCSY’s lay oversight board. In that role, I was dazzled by both the creativity and inspiration evidenced by NCSY leaders and advisors. Casual Orthodoxy has no place in the NCSY experience, and for decades NCSY has had an unimaginable impact on the religious growth of its participants. In the years since, I have often wondered why the OU is not providing the general American Orthodox community, of all ages, with the same level of excitement, creativity and dynamic Torahoriented programming. Somehow, I have the feeling that if Judaism were as inspiring to us as it is to those NCSY students, we would find the time to focus on religious growth.

What am I hoping the OU can address? First, many of us are neither trained nor inclined to focus on classical Talmud studies, and so we need guidance on how to study Torah, the most essential tool in pursuing religious growth, in a manner that is meaningful and engaging. We need tools to convert our daily prayers from a meaningless mouthing of words into an actual, genuine conversation with God. We need guidance on how to channel our love of the Jewish people and of the land of Israel into spiritual opportunities. And, though many of us already cherish Shabbos as a spectacular opportunity to enjoy freedom from work and technology, as well as to relish quality time with the family, couldn’t Shabbos—as well as yom tov—also become a deeply and intensely religious experience? Finally, we need guidance on how to mine the deep and magnificent beauty of Torah and our mesorah, to help those of us who perceive halachah as a restrictive array of rules and dictates appreciate it as a personal treasure of empowerment and elevation. And so, as president of the Orthodox Union, I am hoping that the OU will add these efforts to its already incomparable breadth of multi-faceted programs and services, and assist us together in pursuing ongoing religious growth. I invite you to join me in this endeavor.

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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION






s I write this piece, on the sixth night of Chanukah, I’m at NCSY’s annual Yarchei Kallah, watching nearly 300 public school teens from across the United States and Canada (joined by a lively contingent of twenty-three NCSY teens from Chile and Argentina) light their menorahs, many for the first time. As I watch the scene, in the warm glow of hundreds of flickering candles, I recognize that I am witnessing a modern-day miracle—a tangible display of Hashem’s providence bazman hazeh. This year you can read this piece, but next year, you need to witness Yarchei Kallah yourself to experience the pulsating enthusiasm, to hear the sounds of Torah being learned by hundreds who have never before


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experienced its depth and relevance and to sense the transformations unfolding in front of your eyes. It is a remarkable event that brings joy and optimism for the Jewish future. Each year, NCSY brings together hundreds of public school teens for a week of Torah learning. These teens give up their winter vacation to participate in a dazzling array of shiurim and chaburah learning opportunities—most encountering the serious study of Jewish texts for the first time in their lives. This year, hundreds gathered at a hotel in New Jersey, some from places where maintaining a Jewish identity is far from easy—places like Glen Allen, Virginia; Frisco, Texas; Solon, Ohio; Owings Mills, Maryland; West Mifflin, Massachusetts and Kelso, Washington. They came for one reason: to learn Torah. Each participant began a new encounter with a few of the essential texts of Jewish learning, texts that have maintained our identity as a people for millennia. This year’s offerings included Talmud Berachot; Chumash Bereishit; Sefer Yehoshua; Mesillat Yesharim and Derech Hashem. Amazingly, many of the teens managed to complete the entire Pirkei Avot during the week of Yarchei Kallah. The Talmud (Shabbat 23a) explains that a unique feature of the mitzvah of lighting

Chanukah candles is that not only does the individual lighting the menorah make a berachah (“asher kidshanu”), but there is a special berachah even for those who merely see the light of the Chanukah candles (“she’asa nissim”). Generally no berachah is required when one merely watches someone else perform a mitzvah. We don’t make a berachah when we see someone eat matzah, or eat in a sukkah or put on tefillin. Only on Chanukah is there a requirement for those who do not light the candles themselves, but just watch the candles, to recite a berachah of their own. There are thus two aspects to the Chanukah candles: the hadlakah—the active mitzvah of lighting the candles and the reiyah—witnessing the light of the candles, and recognizing what they represent. Both are equally important and equally holy. It struck me that we all can participate in the holy work of NCSY, each in our own way. There are those—the remarkable, dedicated professional staff of NCSY, supported by hundreds of our finest young men and women who serve as NCSY advisors—who directly light the flames of Yiddishkeit in teens who have lost all contact with their Jewish identities. Recently, a young NCSYer from the Midwest wrote:

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When I was young, Judaism was something to which I simply was never exposed. I was never given the opportunity to encounter the traditions that even secular young Jews [know about]. Instead, we would go to my father’s family for meals on Christmas and Easter, and make multiple trips to Sunday Mass at our local church as well. I was well aware that my mother was Jewish, but my father was Christian and his religious commitment took precedence at home. I went to Israel for the first time on an NCSY Summer program called TJJ. While on TJJ, I got to explore Israel and learn new concepts like kashrut and tzeniut. Soon thereafter, I decided to start keeping kosher, and began dressing in accordance with Jewish law. I decided that public school might not be the ideal place for me. A lot of my friends from TJJ studied at Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago and with the help of my grandparents and NCSY, I spent my last two years of high school at Ida Crown. To understand the true miracle of Yarchei Kallah, some context is required. Recently, noted sociologist Dr. Steven M. Cohen authored an article entitled “Which of Our Grandchildren Will Be Jewish in This Age of Intermarriage?” (The Forward, October 24, 2016). The article referenced the Pew Research Center’s report of the current intermarriage rate of 58 percent, and an even higher level of intermarriage—72 percent—if Orthodox Jews were excluded from the data. After studying the data, Professor Cohen concluded that for the intermarried adult children of intermarried parents, a mere 5 percent are raising Jewsby-religion children. Fully 68 percent of these third-generation children are being raised as non-Jews. In practical effect, over two thirds of the third generation of intermarriage are lost to the Jewish people. Professor Cohen concludes: American Jews are trying to overcome overwhelming odds. We do ourselves no favors by minimizing, if not denying, the indisputable adverse impact of intermarriage on the demographic future of Jewry outside of Orthodoxy… Not surprisingly, Professor Cohen’s detailed study of demographic data led to a follow-up article where he states:


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The overall American Jewish population size is stable and growing, but its character is shifting dramatically. The Orthodox population is exploding. The non-Orthodox are in sharp decline . . . The growth of the Orthodox and the decline of the others means that the Orthodox “market share” has been soaring. Among the oldest generation, they rise to 5% of all Jews. Among the middle generation, they rise to 15%. And among children, the Orthodox are home to 27% of the total. Within two generations, the Orthodox fraction of the Jewish population has more than quintupled. And it continues to grow (“Dramatic Orthodox Growth Is Transforming the American Jewish Community,” The Forward, December 19, 2016). The results of this decline among the non-Orthodox Jewish population is startling: there are 461,000 non-Orthodox synagogue congregants among those ages 57 to 73. Among those ages 28 to 45, the number drops to 204,000—less than half. Among the non-Orthodox ages 56 to 73, there are 466,000 who report an emotional attachment to Israel. For the nonOrthodox ages 28 to 45, the number drops to 198,000. Similar declines are evident in virtually every other measure of Jewish identification—participation in Jewish organizations, enrollment in congregational schools, and so on. I write this with no sense of triumphalism, but with enormous pain and sadness. Much as our co-religionists may seek to gloss over the inexorable, frightening implications of the data, they are real, and they make manifest the devastating impact of the tectonic forces of assimilation and intermarriage on our people. Yet against this devastating backdrop, NCSY’s programming for unaffiliated public school teens stands as a bulwark, enhancing and inspiring Jewish teenagers’ sense of Jewish belonging, Jewish literacy, commitment and activity. Our Anne Samson z”l Teen Jerusalem Journey (TJJ), our signature summer program in Israel for public school teens, has achieved impressive results in encouraging young people from non-observant homes to undertake

several features of traditional religious commitment and observance, and in fostering a genuine Jewish identity. For example, a recent study of ten years of TJJ participants noted that 61 percent of TJJ alumni participate in Jewish learning activities at least weekly. Ninety-three percent of the program’s alumni said that it was very important to them to date only other Jews; 76 percent said that it was very important to marry someone Jewish. More than 8 in 10 TJJ alumni stated that it was very important for them to raise their children as Jewish. When compared to the data on the overall non-Orthodox Jewish population presented earlier, these results are nothing short of extraordinary. The story is told of a man who sued a railroad because his car was crushed by an oncoming train and the flagman, whose job it was to warn away motorists, had failed to do so. The flagman, however, testified during the trial that he had waved the lantern at the crossing, and the railroad was, on the basis of his testimony, acquitted of any liability. After the trial, the railroad’s attorney asked the flagman why he had been so nervous and jittery during his testimony, since everything appeared so clear and so obviously favored the company. The flagman replied, “Because I was afraid they were going to ask me if the lantern was lit!” We needn’t share the concern of the flagman. Our candles are lit for tens of thousands of NCSYers each year. As one Yarchei Kallah participant summed up his reaction to the week: “I love being Jewish, and I love the Jewish people.” So we all need to make a second berachah— she’asa nissim l’avoteinu, bayamim hahem bazman hazeh—as we watch the light of our collective efforts shine, as we witness the miracles being achieved each day. Every one of us shares in these miracles. We enable them. We contribute to them. We make them possible.

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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION



By Gerald M. Schreck


n the spring of 1967, as the inevitability of war in Israel became apparent, Jews the world over were gripped by fear and anxiety. Egyptian and Syrian leaders repeatedly stated that their goal was to eradicate the Jewish State. “We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” declared PLO head Ahmed Shuqayri, “and as for the survivors—if there are any—the boats are ready to deport them.” A little more than two decades after the Shoah, another Holocaust seemed imminent. In Israel, the hospitals were preparing to contend with thousands of war casualties; graves were being dug; men of military age were called up. The country was in a state of sheer terror and panic. And then, suddenly, miracles started happening. Miracles of almost Biblical proportions. As I write this message, the parashah we read this past Shabbos, Parashas Beshalach, comes to mind. The Jews are fleeing from Egypt when suddenly they realize they are being pursued by the Egyptian army. They are trapped—ahead of them is the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds, behind them is the Egyptian army. Bnei Yisrael are filled with fear; the situation seems dire, hopeless. But then Hashem commands Moshe to place his staff on the water and to split the sea. Bnei Yisrael are saved, and emerge safely on the other side of the Yam Suf. Is the Splitting of the Sea so very different than the miracle that took place in


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the early morning of June 5, 1967? On that day—the very first day of the war—Israel surprised the Egyptians with a pre-emptive strike, resulting in the destruction of half of the Egyptian Air Force—204 planes while they were still on the ground! More miracles. Tiny Israel succeeds in defeating the formidable forces of three Arab countries—Egypt, Syria and Jordan, not in two or three years, or in a few months, but in less than one week! In six days, Israel triples its territory; it gains the Sinai Peninsula, Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights as well as the Old City and the Western Wall. Even the most secular Jew could not help but see the obvious Hand of God directing the war, bringing about a stunning victory. In June of 1967, I was in the States. A recent college graduate, I had just started working as a news editor at WNEW Radio. In those days, it was not common to find Orthodox Jews in media, certainly not working in radio or TV. And even secular Jews in the field tended to keep their Jewish identity quiet. While I was monitoring the situation in Israel closely, the Israeli government had imposed a strict news blackout so very little accurate information was trickling through. Meanwhile the Arab propaganda machine was in full force—with fake news reports that Tel Aviv was subject to incessant bombing. I called newly elected Philadelphia Mayor James Tate, visiting Tel Aviv, who told me from his hotel balcony overlooking the city that “everything was serene except for Israeli fighter jets flying overhead to and from their targets.” On the second day of the war, I was working the overnight shift. Suddenly at 6:00 in the morning radio host Ted Brown appeared in the office. He was not due to be on the air until much later that afternoon. “What are you doing here?” I asked, surprised to see him. “I want to keep track of my people,” he said. I was astounded—I had no idea he was even Jewish. But the Six-Day War seemed to remind

so many Jews of their Jewishness and to awaken so many neshamos. Jews around the world, secular and religious, were euphoric to hear that the Kotel was back in Jewish hands, and that our holy sites were once again under our control. That Shavuot, which fell only a few days after the war ended, residents of Jerusalem saw an awe-inspiring sight: some 200,000 Jews—from secular kibbutzniks to Meah Shearim Chassidim—came to pray at the Kotel. Similar to ancient times, thousands streamed through the Old City in celebration of the holiday. Is it any wonder that the Teshuva Movement came about but a few short years later? In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem, this issue includes a special section that we hope will bring readers back to that historic time in Jewish history. Drawing from the writings of some of the most prominent rabbis and leaders at that time including Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l; Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l and Rabbi Shlomo Goren, zt”l, among others, this special section recalls both the fear and trepidation of the dark days preceding and during the war as well as the awe and wonder of this entirely unpredicted, unprecedented victory. In addition, this issue is jam-packed with an array of thoughtful and timely articles including a fascinating study on divorce in the Orthodox community; a tribute to musical genius Ben Zion Shenker, z"l, and the latest halachic concerns surrounding reproductive technology. Also, don’t forget to check out our recipes for Pesach as well as our nutrition writer’s advice for those who will be spending Pesach at a hotel. Before signing off, I want to remind everyone that we are always interested in hearing your comments and concerns, so feel free to e-mail us at Wishing everyone a chag kasher vesame’ach. Gerald M. Schreck is chairman of the Jewish Action Committee and vice chairman of the OU Board of Governors.

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JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017




his past November, on the Friday evening of the week in which Ben Zion Shenker, z”l, passed away, my wife and I were guests in the home of a Sephardi family. Expecting a different type of Shabbat experience, I was taken by surprise when the host led us in singing Eshet Chayil to the melody with which we are all so familiar. He dedicated it to two kallot (new brides) who were present. I made another suggestion: “Let’s also dedicate it to the memory of Ben Zion Shenker, who composed that melody and who died this week.” But it turned out that neither our host nor anyone else around the table had ever heard of Ben Zion Shenker. “I assumed that niggun was a hundred years old or more,” said our host. And, of course, when I told him that Shenker was also the composer of the most familiar tunes we sing for Mizmor leDavid and Yassis Alayich, besides more than five hundred other niggunim, he was amazed. I only met Ben Zion Shenker once, at a presentation he gave about his work, but you could not but be struck by his modesty,

even though he was revered in Jewish musical circles as the leading contemporary exponent of Chassidic music. Having been an avid Shenker fan for many years, I asked him for an autograph, and he was clearly taken aback. Given this humility, perhaps his anonymity among the larger Jewish community is unsurprising. Unlike most other singers, chazzanim, and even many composers, Shenker could not be classified as a “performer,” apart from on his recordings. His appearances on the concert stage were extremely rare, though he was unstinting in giving of himself to lead hours of singing at Chassidic events. And when you listen to any of the many albums he recorded, or watch him in action on YouTube videos, it is evident that he was never simply trying to show off his warm and vibrant voice (what the New York Times, in its obituary, described as a “reedy tenor”). His concern was with how the melody could convey the message contained in the words, how one’s deveikut (attachment to God) could be intensified through the song. Famed Chassidic

entertainer Avraham Fried says there was “a soulful transcendental feeling of prayer” in Shenker’s singing. Even in a professional environment, he never stepped out of character. Veteran Jewish music publisher and historian Velvel Pasternak, who produced many of the early Chassidic albums, once told me about the difference between Shenker and other Chassidic singers. “When the others walk into the studio,” Pasternak related, “they bring throat sprays and inhalers, and all sorts of props. First they do their vocal exercises and warm-ups, and only then are they ready. Ben Zion comes in with a siddur, and simply starts to sing.” Shenker was born in Brooklyn in 1925. Music was his passion since childhood. In a 2011 interview, he told Charlie Bernhaut, longtime host of a weekly online program of chazzanut and other Jewish music, that his mother never had to give him toys to play with. “She would put me down next to the phonograph with a pile of Yossele Rosenblatt records,” he recalled, “and I would sit there entranced for hours on end.”

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Ben Zion Shenker was the trailblazer of a new genre of Jewish music—the American niggun. He joined the choir of Cantor Joshua Weisser at twelve years old, and soon began studying with the well-known Jewish music teacher and conductor Seymour Silbermintz. When he was about fifteen, his father took him along to a tisch of the second Modzitzer rebbe, Reb Shaul, himself a prolific composer, who had just arrived in America. Picking up a book of music notes of niggunim that happened to be there, Shenker began humming the songs. The rebbe was amazed that the young boy could read music and thus began a lifelong relationship, with Shenker acting as musical secretary to the rebbe. To make a living, even though he had semichah, Shenker was involved in his family’s sweater business, and later in a diamond company, but music was his real occupation. Shenker’s creativity and influence spanned many decades. He composed the tunes for Mizmor leDavid and Eshet Chayil in 1946 and 1953 respectively, sang in the first-ever album of Chassidic niggunim in 1956, and was still composing, and even recording his latest compositions, together with klezmer musician Andy Statman, in his nineties. He inspired several generations of Jewish singers and musicians, including Shlomo Carlebach, who became a close friend. There is a sophistication to Shenker’s compositions that is a substantive cut above the popular run-of-the-mill neoChassidic music of today. Often relatively simple, at other times complex in the Modzitz tradition, his compositions touch every emotion, with joy being by far the most common. He loved to sing marches, his right fist banging unceasingly on the table to the tempo. Prayerful pesukim from Tehillim or the Prophets inspired


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him to compose tender, poignant melodies that touch the recesses of the heart. Not infrequently, he would transform into a traditional chazzan, mining the depths of his soul for plaintive musical phrases that would uplift and inspire. According to Yossi Green, also a leading contemporary composer of niggunim, “Ben Zion Shenker was the trailblazer of a new genre of Jewish music—the American niggun, with a modern syncopated rhythm, a low first part, and a high, exciting second part.” Pasternak points to one quality of Shenker’s compositions that characterizes them all. “He had a great ability to write a melody that people can sing.” That is so true. Is there any shul anywhere at which his Mizmor leDavid is not sung during seudah shlishit? But besides his own compositions, he popularized dozens of Modzitz niggunim, such as Lo Tevoshi that enlivens our Kabbalat Shabbat, Ein Kitzva that energizes our Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur Mussaf, and Shoshanat Ya’akov that entertains us on Purim. Melodies like these have become so much a part of our lives that it is hard to imagine a Shabbat or yom tov davening, or a wedding, without them. Shimon Cramer, popular singer and chazzan of the Riverdale Jewish Center in New York, grew up on Shenker’s music in London. “Everyone was using his melodies for parts of the davening,” Cramer recalls. “I’m sure that still today there are some tunes that I sing that I don’t even realize are his.” Pasternak has taken on the huge task of notating, and ultimately publishing, all of Ben Zion Shenker’s songs, so that his genius will live on and can reach ever wider circles. Yet how will their composer be remembered? Like Carlebach and

some others, perhaps his reputation will become that much greater after his passing. But surely he himself would want his legacy to be measured only by how much his music continues to inspire us in our prayers and to uplift us in our celebrations of life. David Olivestone, formerly senior communications officer of the Orthodox Union, lives in Jerusalem and is a member of the Jewish Action Editorial Committee. His most recent contribution to the magazine was a tribute to Cantor Sherwood Goffin.

Listen to Ben Zion Shenker’s niggunim at http://www. html; watch?v=zi9yX87ReoM&t=5s; watch?v=3B-kAFls9MU.

‫בכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו‬ ...‫כאלו הוא יצא ממצרים‬ Every year, at the Pesach seder, you are obligated to see yourself as having personally left Egypt. Your next step is choosing the destination.

Make this year, different than all others.



‫לשנה הזאת בירושלים‬



he sad demise of Reb Ben Zion Shenker has left a void that cannot be filled in the world of Jewish spirituality. I had a close relationship with Ben Zion, who typically insisted that he be referred to as “Ben Zion” and not as Rabbi Shenker, although he had semichah and was a talmid chacham in his own right. I was privileged to daven at the Modzitzer shtiebel with him for many years, and kept up a lifelong friendship with him, calling him once a month for decades. Occasionally, he would send me informal recordings of his melodies and share with me his vast knowledge of the history of Chassidic music. I cannot confine my words about Ben Zion to his music alone. He unfailingly attached his melodies to appropriate texts, and displayed an uncanny ability to instill in those texts new spiritual significance. He was humble and self-effacing. He enthusiastically shared in the semachos of his friends and family, composing new tunes in honor of numerous weddings. He composed an unforgettable new melody in honor of my own marriage to Chavi, a granddaughter of the second Modzitzer


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rebbe, Rabbi Shaul Taub, zt”l, to whom he was especially attached. Ben Zion was the pioneer par excellence of the revival and proliferation of Chassidic music. It was sixty years ago that the first phonograph record of Chassidic melodies was released at his initiative, and it was then that the Jewish world was introduced to his mellifluous and inspiring voice. He thus began the process of preserving the repertoire of the music of the Modzitzer Chassidic dynasty, a national treasure that would have been lost were it not for Ben Zion. Ben Zion composed hundreds of his own niggunim, including such universally popular songs as his Mizmor L’David, HaMavdil and Eshes Chayil. He released a new CD just weeks before his death. He was nearly ninety-two years old at the time of his passing, yet he composed several new melodies in honor of the most recent Yamim Noraim, and conducted the Neilah service this past Yom Kippur. His ability to both preserve the music of his predecessors and to create stunning original compositions can be understood in terms of a distinction made by Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, the revered first chief rabbi

of Israel. Rav Kook was once presented with a dispute between the author of the Darkei Teshuvah and the author of responsa known as the Maharsham. Both authors were early twentieth-century posekim of the first rank. How could he decide whose ruling to follow? Rav Kook decided in favor of the Maharsham, explaining that there are two types of geonim, geniuses. One is the gaon me’asef, the genius who collects the opinions of others. The author of Darkei Teshuvah was such a genius, as his works are anthologies of previous sources. Another type of gaon is the gaon yotzer, the creative genius. This description fits the Maharsham, whose responsa bristle with originality. Rav Kook favored the gaon yotzer over the gaon me’asef. Ben Zion was both a gaon yotzer and a gaon me’asef. As a me’asef he identified, annotated and preserved the vast archive of Modzitzer music going back to the mid1800s. As a yotzer, he composed numerous original niggunim, some influenced by the Modzitzer repertoire, but many breaking new musical ground. A model of menschlichkeit and a master musicologist, Ben Zion also earned for himself a place of honor in the history of

Photo: Lipa Stauber

our people. Just over seventy years ago we emerged from the great trauma of the Holocaust. We lost six million of our brethren, and were left bereft of much of our tradition. We suffered, and to some extent continue to suffer, from what is clinically known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One tool used to overcome PTSD is music. I know from intimate discussions with Ben Zion that he had an exquisite awareness of the role that his music played in healing not only his own personal traumas, but the traumas of our people. As a teenager he somehow intuited that the rebbe, Reb Shaul of Modzitz, carried within him an irreplaceable tradition that desperately needed to be preserved. At that tender age he committed himself to a lifetime of studying, mastering and spreading the musical treasures that would help heal the pain of the survivors of the Holocaust and their progeny. He knew the date and the circumstances of each melody that he preserved. He could tell his audience that one Chassidic march traced back to the 1870s, another was associated with the historic events of World War I, and a third was the first melody composed when the rebbe he idolized reached the shores of the United States. No one could match his account of the dramatic discovery of the Ani Ma’amin composed by a Modzitzer chassid on the death train to Treblinka.*

His choice of the texts to which he set his music was clearly inspired by his need to help heal the traumas of Jewish souls. Arguably the most famous of his melodies is set to the words of Mizmor L’David, Psalm 23. Can any words serve as a better source of healing than “although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me”? And there is no moment that offers more solace for one’s weekday woes than the Friday night Shabbos meal, nowadays enriched by Ben Zion’s exquisitely comforting melody for Eshes Chayil, a melody he composed for his wife, Mrs. Dina Shenker, a”h. The ultimate triumph over trauma is joy, and for the Jew there is no greater joy than a wedding. Ben Zion composed well over 100 wedding tunes, invariably in honor of a friend, a family member and his own children and grandchildren. His choice of words for those songs were sometimes predictable, such as his world-famous Yassis Alayich, but often unusual, as when he selected this verse from Tehillim, Psalm 91, for my marriage to Chavi: “Ki malachav yetzaveh lach . . . He will command His angels about you, to guard you in all your ways.” His ability to infuse liturgical and Biblical texts with profound and diverse meanings was his singular distinction. He favored verses from Tehillim over all other sources.

I am quite confident that since King David himself no one else has set the words of the Psalms to as many different melodies as did Ben Zion. It is most fitting that, along with King David, Ben Zion Shenker should be crowned for all eternity with the title Neim Zemiros Yisrael, the “sweet singer of Israel.” May his memory be a blessing. * The story is told of a Modiztzer chassid, Reb Azriel Dovid Fastag, who composed and began to sing Ani Ma’amin while in a cattle car to Treblinka. A young Jew managed to escape from the train and eventually brought the Ani Ma’amin melody to the Modiztzer rebbe. Upon hearing the niggun, the rebbe reportedly said, “With this niggun the Jewish people went to the gas chambers, and with this niggun the Jews will march to greet the Mashiach.” Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb is OU executive vice president, emeritus, and a member of the Jewish Action Editorial Committee.

Listen to Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb discuss Ben Zion Shenker’s musical legacy at

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Thank you from the OU family for your generous annual support of our vital programs, including: YACHAD - Inclusion for people with disabilities OU-JLIC - Supporting Jewish life on college campuses NCSY - Life-changing teen empowerment and inspiration program OU ISRAEL - Outreach to at-risk youth, support for soldiers and olim SYNAGOGUE & COMMUNITY SERVICES - Educational content, programs, consulting for synagogues and communities IFS BIRTHRIGHT ISRAEL - Connecting Jewish youth with their heritage OU ADVOCACY CENTER - Promoting Jewish interests in the halls of government

Members of the newly launched OU Benefactor Circle lead through their philanthropy. We applaud them all for their commitment, those whose names appear as well as those choosing to remain anonymous. We invite you to join them in making a difference.

OU.ORG/BENEFACTOR To learn more about the OU Benefactor Circle or to become a member, please call Arnold Gerson, Chief Institutional Advancement Officer, at 212.613-8313 or email 22

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Due to the printing deadline, we apologize for any omissions. This listing includes annual donors from January 1, 2015 – January 31, 2017. If you wish to be acknowledged, please contact Elaine Grossman at Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION



EXCELLING IN FAITH By Avraham Edelstein


Emunah: A Refresher Course: A Step-by-Step Program to Increased Emunah By Rabbi Dovid Sapirman Mosaica Press Beit Shemesh, 2015 227 pages


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

havakuk, says the gemara in Makkot, gave us a key to unlocking all of Judaism: “Tzaddik be’emunato yichyeh, a tzaddik lives by his faith.” Rav Tzadok HaCohen suggests that we put a comma after “be’emunato,” changing the translation to “He who is a tzaddik in faith, will live.” Perhaps we can be mediocre in chessed (acts of kindness), in gevurah (selfrestraint) or in histapkut (being satisfied with less). But in faith we must excel. In faith we must all be tzaddikim. Many books aim at teaching how to acquire faith, including three recently published works we will discuss here. However, no book can teach you how to excel in faith. Its place lies elsewhere. Emunah is not a zero-sum game, where we either believe or we don’t. There are not only many levels to faith but also many facets to it. There is belief in God’s hashgachah peratit (Divine providence), in the coming of the Mashiach, in Ma’amad Har Sinai and in the choseness of the Jewish people. Emunah, in fact, spreads a vast canopy that impregnates everything we do with meaning. But there is more. We live in a generation where mitzvah

observance and Torah study have risen dramatically over previous generations. Yet, it is one of life’s great ironies that despite the explosion in Torah learning and observance, we seem more distant from the Ribbono shel Olam. We are missing something. Judaism, says Rabbi Benzion Klatzko, the founder of and and outstanding outreach professional, is not a religion. It is a relationship—a relationship with God. Without that relationship, we have nothing. That is why the Behag does not even count believing in God as a mitzvah.1 It is the background context in which we live; the meta-principle on which everything is based.2 Rabbi Klatzko’s audiences are mixed—nonobservant, traditional, marginally observant—and his words resonate with them all. We understand relationships. We understand we want them. Talking about relationships is the number-one kiruv topic. It is also numero uno in seminars, workshops and weekends appealing to a cross-section of the Orthodox world. Stated this way, the opposite of faith is not apikorsut (heresy). The definition of kefirah (heresy), Rav Tzadok HaCohen states, is when one has no relationship with God, no deveikut (attachment to Him).3











. s e n i w a n ce d

l a b y l y. t r c d e o f r o t e t P e et . No sw o o t t o N

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Reality Check: A Handbook of Hashkafah By Yosef Segal Mosaica Press Beit Shemesh, Israel, 2016 96 pages Many of us believe in God but we don’t know how to have a relationship with Him. We believe that God exists but we don’t believe in Him. We observe all the mitzvot, but we don’t feel the spirituality and the closeness to God that they are supposed to generate. We have difficulty integrating the idea, so well put by Rabbi Yosef Segal in his book on emunah, Reality Check, that “the main purpose of doing mitzvos . . . is in order to have a relationship with Hashem.” We certainly have a hard time with Rabbi Segal’s declaration that “mitzvos provide more pleasure than anything else in this world.” We have emunah but we lack bitachon—faith in—in the sense of trusting that our Father really loves us and is looking for us to love Him in turn. Of course, we cannot take our “belief that” for granted either. “Belief that” is the belief of the scientist, the belief of Avraham Avinu in his early years who observed the natural world to prove that God must exist. Avraham Avinu started with Einstein’s God, a God that “does not play dice,” a God of beauty and order. But the Torah only introduces us to Avraham Avinu at the age


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

of seventy-five, when he was at a different stage of his faith—when he was already willing to take the leap of trust in God, and leave everything at His behest.4 We don’t need Torah to teach us the God of Einstein. We need it to teach us how to cleave to Him. “Belief that” is usually associated with proofs. In the kiruv world, proofs that God exist are not often used. Many students who have just begun their journey in Judaism and who are struggling with God resolve “belief that” through their study of Torah and doing mitzvot, not by struggling with the evidence. Dovid HaMelech already told us “ta’amu u’re’u—taste and you will understand.” Engagement rather than philosophy is the true road to faith. Hence Rabbi Segal, who teaches and studies at yeshivot in Jerusalem, has only one chapter on proofs, while Rabbi Gavriel Mandel’s new book on faith, Judaism Unraveled, has none. Both authors aim at reaching the beginner to Judaism. Conversely, Rabbi Dovid Sapirman’s book Emunah: A Refresher Course: A Step-by-Step Program to Increased Emunah is primarily about proofs. But Rabbi Sapirman, a veteran mechanech who founded the Ani Ma’amin Foundation which is dedicated to reinforcing emunah among the religious population, is writing for those who already believe in God and need chizuk. Campus outreach professionals and the ba’alei teshuvah yeshivot and seminaries teach faith by showing just how profound and relevant Judaism is to our lives, just how enriching are concepts such as kedushah (sanctity), shemirat halashon (guarding one’s speech) and Shabbat. The students tend to be more interested in why God created the world than in whether or not He exists. Most ba’alei teshuvah jump into the mesorah, first as outsiders and then as insiders. They aren’t becoming Abrahamites (first the God of science, and then the God of Divine providence); they are becoming Sinaites! They start by learning why God created the world. They come to understand why it matters to God that we do the mitzvot. They are inspired by their partnership with God in the tikkun haBeriah (perfection of Creation). They are filled with a sense of meaning and purpose.

Where does that leave the Arachim seminar, founded by Israeli educators and scientists, which famously focuses on proofs of God’s existence? (Aish HaTorah’s “Discovery Seminar” was built on this.)5 The great secret behind these seminars is that they work best with one who at least suspects Judaism is true. He knows what the seminar is trying to achieve and he is interested in going along. He is looking for confirmation of his ideas, for an intellectual package to give him the emotional courage to take the next step. It would appear that “proofs” are effective for those who already suspect that the Torah is true but want greater clarity. Rabbeinu Bechaya supports this type of proof. Start with tradition, he says, but end with intellect. Intellectually-based emunah gives us confidence, allowing us to be unflinching not only when confronting spurious arguments of the atheist, but also—interestingly enough— when confronted with various temptations. The clearer our faith, the stronger our faithfulness will be.6 If we want to truly internalize our faith, we have to first reach a level of intellectual clarity, as the Torah says, “Know it and place it in your hearts.”7 And so the order seems to be: Accept faith because it is tradition, then fortify it intellectually, then internalize it at a much deeper level. Here is how the Alter of Kelm puts it: Once you have accepted this reasonable tradition, you should intellectually analyze it and study proofs as if you have never heard the concepts before. You should analyze it until you come to a point where your intellect is independently convinced of the foundations of Judaism . . . . In the end you are rooted in tradition but led by your reason and intellect.8 Over the years, I have heard hundreds of FFBs (Frum from Birthers) bemoan the fact that they lack the intellectual foundations of emunah. They don’t know the proofs—the empirical underpinnings of faith discussed by Rabbeinu Bechaya and the Alter of Kelm. (Rabbi Sapirman works hard to correct this in his work.) That would not be so bad, but the FFB often lacks the grand ideas of Judaism as well—the stage-one faith elements that are so attractive to the ba’al teshuvah. So many have been told, for example, that the reason not to sin


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is because they will be punished if they do. They have been educated to do mitzvot so they will be rewarded in the World to Come—al menat l’kabel sachar—which, according to Rav Eliyahu Dessler, is the lowest level of performing a mitzvah “lo lishmah” (not for its sake). If there is any relationship with God in all of this, it is that of a servant to a king— Malkeinu. Avinu—the relationship of a Father to a child, which always precedes Malkeinu— does not figure here at all. Lost is a sense of the grandeur of Judaism, its profundity and acute relevance to our lives as well as the loving God whose sole mission is to share His goodness with us. Some of us begin to dread or resent God’s reign of fear over us. This accounts for part of the anger often found among “off-thederech” teenagers. And so, when Gateways or Project Inspire or the Elevation Project offer FFBs a “new deal,” in other words, a new way to connect with God, we run in droves. We are, in fact, hungry for a real relationship with God.

We have to teach emunah as our friend, as that which will get us closer to the One who loves us. “Faith,” wrote Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “is the ability to rejoice in the midst of instability and change, travelling through the wilderness of time toward an unknown destination.”9 That destination Rabbi Sacks speaks of perforce does not only involve our personal lives, but the life and history of the Jewish people as well. For a Jew, it is not enough to believe in hashgachah peratit, that God scripts all of our individual opportunities precisely. History is a revelation of God’s providence in this world. God not only knows the news, He creates the news10— and all according to a clear pattern. God has a clear plan for history, ending with the revelation of His Oneness in the world—giluy Yichudo.11 We don’t teach this perspective in a real and relevant way in most of our day schools and yeshivot. Interestingly, of the three books on faith, only Rabbi Mandel’s Judaism Unraveled has

a chapter on the Jewish people in a historical context. Unfortunately, however, it is only when Rabbi Mandel, who serves as a campus rabbi for Aish HaTorah’s branch in Toronto, Canada, deals with anti-Semitism that he gives us a sense of the different rules of history to which the Jewish nation is subject. We don’t effectively convey to the next generation the idea a Jew must believe that our history is God’s history, and that our physical well-being as a nation is linked precisely to our spiritual health (Rabbi Mandel makes this observation as well). We know only abstractly that we are the main instruments through which God will reveal His Oneness, and hence the normal rules of sociology and history do not apply to us.12 For a Jew to say, “You are my God” is to have an incomplete faith. He must finish his sentence with “and the God of my people.” A true definition of emunah involves the fusion of the personal and the national, where all of history is a history of hashgachah, as revealing the Oneness of God in the world.13


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Judaism Unraveled: Answers to the Most Challenging Questions About Judaism By Rabbi Gavriel Mandel Feldheim Publishers New York, 2016 288 pages The skeptic may not be moved by all of this. In fact, the skeptic often demands a level of proof which does not exist, not only with respect to God and Judaism, but even with respect to physics and biology.14 Judaism never claimed to be able to prove itself at the level demanded by the skeptic. What it does claim (and this is the best a physicist can do for theories in his field as well) is that the idea of an involved God who gave the Torah to the Jewish people is the best possible explanation amongst all competing explanations. At that point, one has to take a leap of faith, not blindly, but as an extension of the rational and empirical underpinnings of what Judaism is claiming. The story of Eliyahu HaNavi on Mount Carmel illustrates this so clearly. Eliyahu defeats the prophets of the Baal—he sets up a proof: if God is true then the fire will only come from Him—and things happen exactly as he sets it up. But the Jewish people shrug off this dramatic incident, so much so that Eliyahu flees to the desert in despair, and pleads with God to die. Why did the Jewish people not transform themselves and do

teshuvah in the face of a clear proof of God’s existence? Because Izevel, queen of the Northern Kingdom, offered a different explanation. The gods of the Baal, she said, like human sacrifice. What happened was supposed to happen.15 Izevel found an alternative explanation, and that was all the skeptics needed.16 The Aish Kodesh17 warns that a faith built on logic and proofs alone will unravel at the first nisayon (spiritual challenge). And if we allow the nisayon to weaken our faith, we will lack the elements we need for salvation. Hence, Calev did not answer the reasonable claims of spies that the Jewish people were not strong enough to fight the well-armed and fortified Canaanim. Rather, Calev silenced them. He pointed the Jewish people to faith in a God that operates above human logic. This is not being irrational; it is transcending oneself. Thank God, says the Breslover Rebbe, that we cannot understand the full depth of God’s wisdom and logic. For, if we could, we would be reducing His wisdom to ours. To compensate for our limitations, Hashem plants awareness of His existence into the mind of every man. Every man has this understanding from birth. For the soul knows its source. Anyone who looks deeply inside himself will find this awareness deeply entrenched in his soul.18 The three books above that deal with emunah show just how broad the faith-net really is. By their variation in approach and topics covered, they show just how difficult it is to define what faith is really all about. A Refresher Course is the most comprehensive, and deals mainly with proofs, including an outstanding presentation detailing how the prophecies came true. (Sixty pages of the book include a readable yet well-researched critique of evolution. Evaluative comments on this part of the book are beyond the scope of this essay.) This work is the only one of the three explicitly dedicated to the issue of emunah. The most concise of the three, Reality Check, a slim ninety-two pages long, moves through Olam Haba (the World to Come), Shabbat, prayer and other aspects of Judaism. For Rabbi Segal, “the more I understand how He works, the more I appreciate him. And true love only comes

from appreciation.” Judaism Unraveled is really an excellent introductory text for those approaching Judaism from afar, though in today’s world so many of us who are Orthodox are lacking this aerial view of the nature of God, man’s purpose in the world, choice, the role of the Jewish people and the role of the nations of the world. In the aftermath of the Mount Carmel story, after Eliyahu asks to die, God tells him that He is not to be found in the raging fire or in the mighty wind, but rather in the soft voice. There are people—entire generations—who will not find God through dramatic proofs and loud noises declaring the truth of the Torah. But they will respond to the still, quiet voice of kiruv, of the loving mechanech (teacher) and of the exemplary parent. We are most likely to become passionately observant through our connection with others who model this behavior than because of any intellectual exercise. Here is the great, open secret of kiruv rechokim: people become frum through other people, people they admire, trust and like. It is a secret that the wise of the Orthodox world have adopted as a basic principle of chinuch (education). When the Gemara discusses Chavakuk’s exhortation that we should live by our faith, it states, “Chavakuk he’emido al achat, Chavakuk fixed it on one”—that is, Chavakuk provided that one vital key that will unlock all of Torah and mitzvot.19 We cannot afford to be second best in teaching emunah. And we cannot afford to be second best in our faith. Rabbi Avraham Edelstein is the educational director of Neve College for Women in Jerusalem. He is a director of the Ner LeElef Institute and a senior advisor to Olami.

Notes 1.  The first of the Ten Commandments is written as a statement—“I am the Lord, your God”—not as a command. 2.  Ramban, glosses (hasagot) to the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Mitzvah No. 1. 3.  Rav Tzadok HaCohen M’Lublin, Machashavot Charutz, Siman Zayin:

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION




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“The denial of something is defined by the person not having a relationship with it. And this is why Chavakuk gave this one key as a gateway to the whole Torah, because through the belief of the soul in God, perforce one has a relationship with and a cleaving to God.” 4.  We first hear of Avraham Avinu at the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha when he was already very advanced in his faith. See my essay on this at Weekly%20Parsha/Eng%20Lech%20Lecha.pdf. 5. See, for example, the Ramban, Hashmatot to the Negative Mitzvot of the Rambam, Mitzvah Beit, where he says that it is an obligation not to forget the Sinai experience. In his “Torat Hashem Temimah,” the Ramban brings other ways in which the Torah “enlightens our eyes” (meirat eynayim). The Kuzari cites many other arguments validating the Torah (see Maamar Sheni, Siman Nun, for example), but only Maamad Har Sinai is given the status of an event that could not have been falsified. The Rambam, in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, says that the miracles of the Exodus were not performed by God as validation of the Torah. Only Maamad Har Sinai has this status. 6.  Rabbeinu Bechaya: Devarim 13:7. 7. Rabbeinu Bachya ben Yosef ibn Paquda, Chovot Halevavot 1:3. 8.  Alter of Kelm: Chochmah U’Mussar vol. 2, p. 76. 9. “The Festival of Insecurity: A Message for Sukkot,” http://www. 10. Rav Shimshon Pincus discusses this idea in his sefer entitled Sukkot (p. 13, in the Hebrew edition): “God says to the First Man: ‘The Tree of Knowledge’—to know news, politics, to expand horizons . . . . I have no interest in all of this—[like it says in Yeshayahu] ‘vachadashot ani magid; beterem tizmachna ashmia etchem—and new things [i.e., the news] do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them’” (42:9). 11. Da’at Tevunot of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto is dedicated to this issue. See, for example, pages 161-178 in the Rabbi Chaim Friedlander edition. 12. Rabbeinu Bechaya 32:7. 13. “Every Jew must not only know this; he must understand this deep in his heart—Vehasheivota el levavecha.” Da’at Tevunot, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto; Rav Chaim Friedlander edition, Siman Lamed Daled. 14. In fact, according to Sir Karl Popper, the best a scientific theory can do is to claim that it has not yet been disproven. What science can and does know is beyond the scope of this essay. The interested reader should read Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962). 15. Abarbanel on I Melachim. 16. I saw this explanation in an essay by Rabbi Yosef Bitton but I cannot seem to locate it. 17. On Parashat Shekalim. 18. Malbim, Shemot 20:1. 19. This is how Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe once explained it to me, and this is his intended explanation in his Alei Shur, Chelek Aleph.

Listen to Rabbi Avraham Edelstein discuss teaching faith in God at


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he year 1978 marked the beginning of the technological revolution in reproductive medicine when the world was introduced to the first test tube baby, Louise Brown. Baby Brown was featured on the cover of Time Magazine as the first child born through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Today, IVF is a household word. Since 1978, almost six million babies have been born through IVF and related procedures. Following IVF, reproductive medicine experienced yet another revolution: preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Commonly known as PGD, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis involves genetically screening a pre-implanted fertilized egg to ascertain whether it harbors specific disease-causing mutations such as Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis or fragile X syndrome. Only those pre-implanted embryos that do not carry disease-causing genetic mutations are selected for implantation, thereby reducing the number of babies born with these diseases. This is especially vital within the Jewish Ashkenazic community, where


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PGD has reduced the number of Tay Sachs babies born by more than 90 percent ( At this point in time, we are currently witnessing the beginnings of the next wave in reproductive medical technology: gene editing and mitochondrial replacement therapy. Using methods such as CRISPR, gene-editing technologies can change the genetic code of an individual, potentially correcting any of the 6,000 geneticbased diseases that plague our society. In addition, we can help women with genetic mutations have healthy children. Normally, women with specific mutations in their mitochondria develop serious health conditions that will be passed on to their children. Now, scientists are able to use genetic material from a woman with healthy mitochondria, the genetic material from the woman with unhealthy mitochondria and sperm to create healthy children free of mitochondrial disease. These new technologies in reproductive medicine are particularly important to the

Orthodox Jewish community because of the value placed on family and children. However, these biotechnologies raise important ethical and halachic questions, some of which include: a) Under what conditions can a couple engage in IVF? b) Does genetics or gestation confer motherhood? c) Under what medical or non-medical conditions can gene editing be halachically acceptable? And d) Is there a social responsibility for Orthodox Jews to volunteer for early clinical studies to assess the efficacy and safety of these new technologies? In order for our posekim to resolve these halachic questions, experts—that is, frum medical professionals including scientists and physicians who specialize in these areas—must educate rabbis about the underlying technologies. This is not an easy task and requires a time commitment on both the part of the experts and the rabbanim.1 Below is a sampling of some of the recent responsa related to reproductive technology:

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● Can Orthodox Jews engage in new biotechnologies (IVF and gene editing)? Halachah recognizes the suffering of Jewish infertile couples and therefore encourages pursuing research in these new technologies with the hope of developing therapies to overcome infertility. Most posekim today encourage couples to engage in IVF (See, for example, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, I Noam at 157 [5718]). ● Under what conditions can couples engage in IVF? This question is predicated upon a major principle in Jewish law—that intervention in reproductive medicine is an “option,” not a mandatory halachic “obligation” and should never be used to replace normal marital relations in fulfilling the mandate of “peru u’revu.” (See Nishmat Avraham, Even HaEzer 1:5.) ● a) Can IVF be used by couples who are not infertile to increase the odds of a successful pregnancy? b) Can IVF be used for gender selection in order to fulfill the mitzvah of peru u’revu (i.e., two children, one of each gender)? And c) Can women engaged in IVF be allowed to violate Shabbat in order to undergo the various medical protocols necessary for successful IVF? The answers to these questions are usually determined on a case by case analysis; however, some general principles are valid. For example, couples who do not present with infertility problems should


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

not engage in IVF to have children (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Even HaEzer 4:73). In addition, planned scheduling of the various medications administered and procedures involved in IVF can be managed such that the woman need not violate Shabbat to undergo IVF. Proper scheduling of IVF is therefore the preferred halachic way to avoid violating Shabbat. However, there may be situa­­tions where a woman requires medical attention

At this point in time, we are currently witnessing the beginnings of the next wave in reproductive medical technology: gene editing and mitochondrial replacement therapy. on Shabbat and halachah allows IVF procedures to be performed on Shabbat, especially if a non-Jewish physician can administer these procedures. Regarding sex selection using IVF, only when there are medical reasons to engage in IVF can sex selection be considered as a halachic option (Joel B. Wolowelsky, et al. “Sex Selection and Halakhic Ethics: A Contemporary Discussion,” Tradition: A

Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 40:1 [2007]: 45-78). ● Under what conditions can gene editing be halachically acceptable? As mentioned above, gene-editing technologies, such as CRISPR, are being designed to correct genetic diseases by editing the code within the human genome. The secular ethical barriers are, in part, based upon the belief that manipulations in human beings that tamper with the human genome are unethical (Jennifer Sills, ed. “Letters: Eugenics Lurk in the Shadow of CRISPR,” Science 348: 6237 [May 2015], p. 871). In fact, due to these ethical concerns and safety issues associated with this technology, the US government will not fund gene-editing research in human embryos. Yet according to halachah, tampering with the genetic code in order to improve health is in fact an ethical endeavor that is acceptable; as such, genetic research thus fulfills an important obligation—God instructs human beings to serve as partners with Him in the creation process (Fred Rosner, “Jewish Medical Ethics: Genetic Screening & Genetic Therapy,” Jewish Virtual Library, accessed December 14, 2016, http://www. Judaism/genetic.html). Therefore, from a halachic standpoint, genetic research should be pursued with vigor and

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careful analysis, given its tremendous potential medical benefits. Research in these new technologies have either begun to enter clinical trials (such as mitochondrial replacement therapy) or will begin to enter clinical trials (in the case of gene-editing technologies). In some situations, there have been reports in the medical literature and in the mainstream media about the successful application of gene editing to cure a wide variety of human diseases. Human beings serve as partners with God in the creation process. This means that we have a social responsibility to engage in ethically researching these technologies and to volunteer for such clinical trials. Volunteering for such trials represents a great act of chessed. Furthermore, there is a real need for rabbinical scholars to gain a deeper understanding of new biotechnologies, as the Jewish community needs to have halachic positions on various complex bioethical issues related to reproductive medicine. Thank God, the Jewish community has world-class experts in the medical and reproductive fields—there are plenty of frum doctors, family counselors and scientists who can and should devote time and effort to properly educate our rabbis about the underlying science and medicine, as well as the benefits and health risks of these technologies.

Note 1. O  ne effective way to teach rabbanim and the public about the newest technologies in reproductive medicine and the halachot associated with them is through organizing conferences on the subject. In December 2015, for example, we organized a groundbreaking symposium on halachah and reproductive medicine that was co-sponsored by Touro’s Lander College for Women, New York Medical College, and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Held in New York, the conference, entitled “The Future of Reproductive Medicine: A Jewish Perspective,” provided a forum for rabbis and medical professionals to speak to one another and exchange ideas. John D. Loike, PhD, is faculty in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, director for Biomedical Cross-cultural Educational Program (BioCEP), course instructor for Crossroads in Bioethics and author of Science-Based Bioethics (2014). Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, PhD, is the Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Professor of Jewish Medical Ethics and is a professor of biology at Yeshiva University, as well as a rosh yeshivah at RIETS. Rabbi Tzvi Flaum is mashgiach ruchani at Touro’s Lander College for Women in Manhattan. Ira Bedzow, PhD, is assistant professor of medicine and director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College and senior scholar at the Aspen Center for Social Values. He also teaches courses on biomedical ethics.

Listen to Dr. John D. Loike discuss halachah and reproductive technology at savitsky_loike/.

Children after Divorce FAMILY MATTERS

Parents choose to get married, to have children and occasionally to divorce. Children don’t choose any of this. For kids of divorce, their parents’ decisions leave a lifelong impact. By Avigail Rosenberg


ecently I told my confident, smart and popular twelve-year-old that he has no idea how stable his life is compared to that of other kids of divorce. He was two years old when his father and I separated; he has no memory of our life together. I’ve raised him and his big brother near extended family, and he has a positive relationship with both me and his father. His world, though, is defined by what his friends have and he doesn’t. He dissolved into tears and told me, “But my Abba lives far away.”

The Effects For kids of divorce, their parents’ decision to separate, as well-intentioned or unpreventable as it may be, means that life will never be the same again. No longer will they have two parents living in the same home; no longer


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

will they enjoy the intact family structure that is so valued in the Orthodox community. Their contact with one parent may be limited or curtailed; they may be forced to deal with a parent’s remarriage and all that that entails. Their sense of safety and security is upended, and it might be years before they regain their footing. While the divorce rate for the general American public is around 50 percent, Orthodox society has long prided itself on its high rate of successful marriages. Recently, however, it seems that frum divorce is on the rise, and its impact has been felt in the community at large. In fact, Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services released a documentary film on the topic called Rising from Divorce. The film’s focus is on providing emotional support to those most affected by divorce—not just the couple themselves, but their children as well.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


While several long-range studies have shown that children of divorce are more likely to experience social, emotional or psychological difficulties, including feelings of failure and fear of conflict,1 those same studies reveal that parents can minimize these effects on their children if they protect them from the harmful fallouts of the split, notes Dr. Mark Banschick, psychiatrist and author of The Intelligent Divorce book series, who appears in the documentary. Kids in high-conflict marriages are also at risk for psychological damage, says Dr. Banschick, so divorce can sometimes be a reasonable and healthy way to give kids a better chance at a successful life. But, he adds, “If you want your kids to be healthy, productive adults, you have to realize that you are not the center of this story.” It’s the children who need to be at the center, Dr. Banschick explains, and they must be protected from their parents’ unhappiness rather than being swept into it. Even for children whose parents protect them from the conflict, divorce leads to a lack of normal family structure and even a degree of emotional neglect. “As a kid, I didn’t realize how much instability I had in my life,” says Tali, today married and the mother of four. “My whole growing

up years, we only had grilled cheese or frozen pizza for supper. Today, when I make supper for my children and sit down to eat with them, I feel like I’m giving them a gift that I never realized I was lacking.” Other children of divorce share how they had to keep all their pain and confusion bottled up inside, since no one ever spoke about it. “I felt like I was the only one whose parents were divorced,” says Alyssa,

“Children shouldn’t feel like they’re living out of a suitcase.There should be toys, books and access to friends in both homes.” a therapist in her early forties whose parents divorced when she was six. “I kept everything inside—and I mean everything. I was too embarrassed to speak about what I was going through. In my family it wasn’t something that anyone spoke about.

Support from the Outside: What Friends and Family Can Do to Help Neighbors, friends and extended family often wonder how they can help single parents and their children. Here are some guidelines: • Treat the kids like everybody else—don’t make them feel more different than they already feel. If it’s appropriate, offer to take the child to shul or to learn with him, but don’t overdo it or intrude where it’s not necessary. • Extend invitations for Shabbat and yom tov meals. Single parents may receive countless invitations for yom tov, but they often receive very few for an ordinary Shabbat. If you call a single parent and she can’t make it, ask if a different week will work. • Realize that a single parent doesn’t have another adult in the home to rely on when he or she has to work late or run out to the doctor. If you’re asked to take over carpool or have a child come to your home after school, say yes whenever you can. • It’s tempting to take sides in a situation like divorce. Don’t do it. And never gossip about a child’s parent in public—it’s very humiliating for a child.


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

“After I got married, I was having trouble quitting a job, and my husband suggested that I get help. It’s been twenty years since then, and I’m still learning how to handle the trauma I experienced as a child.”

Monkey in the Middle Two homes. Divided loyalties. Parents using children as pawns in the chess game of the dissolution of their marriage. All of these and more can negatively impact a child of divorce. Divorce should not mean the loss of a parent to a child, counsels Dr. Aviva Biberfeld, a Brooklyn-based psychologist in private practice. “In the best of circumstances, the kids are going to have parents in two places; perhaps they’ll have two homes. If the parents are really focused on the children’s well-being, assuring them that they’ll still have a relationship with both parents, it doesn’t need to have the same negative effect. If visitation is inconsistent and the parents are badmouthing each other, it’s much worse.” Children use trust in parents as their standard for trusting in others, adds Rabbi Dovid Greenblatt, a community activist in New York’s Five Towns who serves as a resource for single mothers and their children. “When we denigrate a spouse or ex-spouse to our child, we are in effect saying that the spouse cannot be relied upon or trusted. Being told by one parent that the other parent is not trustworthy makes the child question his entire trusting mechanism. It can make them live scared and sad lives, since there is no one they can rely on.” Rabbi Greenblatt remembers a conversation with a young man whose parents had had a bitter divorce. “I befriended him when he was five years old; I helped him and his mother through my tzedakah fund throughout his life,” Rabbi Greenblatt says. He assured the young man that he would help him start the process of finding a shidduch and would assist with the wedding and beyond. “He looked at me with an impenetrable ‘Teflon look’ that said clearly my commitments weren’t to be taken seriously,” Rabbi Greenblatt recalls. “Tragically, this young man’s life had a very sad ending, perhaps due to the damage in his ability to trust.”

While divorced parents may forget the mistakes they’ve made, their children will not. “Picture a divorced mom complaining to a friend on the phone about her ex not paying child support,” says Dr. Banschick. “She’s going on and on—‘I can’t believe he’s acting this way, this is not the person I married.’ Then she adds, ‘He doesn’t even love his own kids.’ Her daughter happens to walk in at this point and hears the last line. Does this mom remember this incident the next day? Probably not, but her daughter will remember it for the rest of her life.” Many couples will go for counseling prior to separation to receive guidance on how to break the news to their children, what information to share and how to share it, and how to make the “landing period” go as smoothly as possible. “Talk to your kids, be upfront with them,” says Dr. Biberfeld. “Kids need information, they need to know that their questions will be answered.” In addition, providing the children with professional help gives them a safe place to sort through their feelings and learn that they’re not to blame for their parents’ divorce. “A therapist I worked with told me that a child sees himself as an extension of both his parents,” says Meira, a remarried mother of three in Teaneck. “If you make issues, it’ll affect the kids. I hate my ex with a passion, but I have an amicable relationship with him for my kids’ sake.” Meira put her children, who were elementary school aged at the time of the divorce, in therapy six months prior to her separation. “It’s been four years now,” she says, “and they’re still adjusting to their new reality. It’s a hard reality to accept.”

Switching Back and Forth On a practical level, sometimes it’s not the big things but the small things, like the logistics of switching homes, that can drive a kid crazy. Most experts advise that children have some or all of their basic necessities in both homes— pajamas, slippers and Shabbat shoes


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

shouldn't have to go back and forth. “Children shouldn’t feel like they’re living out of a suitcase,” says Dr. Biberfeld. “There should be toys, books and access to friends in both homes.” In addition, she cautions, “neither parent should be the only disciplinarian, and neither parent should be the gift-giving,

candy-buying parent. Nobody’s being done a favor if that’s happening, and it’s not going to be good for the child’s ultimate relationship with the parent.” For Alyssa, who from the age of six spent Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at her mom’s and Tuesdays and alternating weekends at her dad’s, “visiting was great, but the technical details were really not great. The other home might be only five minutes away, but if I forgot something that I needed for soccer practice the next day, I didn’t have it. I couldn’t drive, so someone had to get in the car and bring it to me— which might or might not happen. “To this day, I hate traveling. My kids are always telling me, ‘You’re so boring, Mom.’ I think to myself, if you had to travel as often as I did when I was a kid, you wouldn’t want to travel either.” For a child in a frum home, switching back and forth between two homes can

have another side effect: confusion over religious identity. Meira’s children, for example, live half the week with their father, who is much less religious than she is. “We have very different ways of raising our kids,” she says. “There are things he tolerates that I don’t, which becomes very difficult for the kids.” Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon, and in more severe cases, one of the ex-spouses may no longer be observant at all. If a parent’s lifestyle is not in violation of halachah, a New York-based rabbi advises considering the pros and cons of saying something versus staying silent. “Speaking up may cause stress between you and your child and will likely further increase the tension in your relationship with your ex. It’s better to view it as a chance for your child to learn how to cope with Jews not exactly like him,” he says. “Remember, our children model what we are, not what we tell them they should be.” Meira tries to stay open with her children, though she finds that as they become teens, they struggle with identity more than their peers do. “I’m very open and honest with them,” Meira says. “If they tell me, ‘This isn’t how we do it at our father’s house,’ I say, ‘We’re not married anymore, we’re running our homes differently, and this is how I do it here.’ This is the reality they’re living with, and I try to help them accept it,” she explains. When one parent is far away, the custodial parent may have to be more accommodating and sometimes even proactive when it comes to scheduling and visitation. Ben, a single father of two now-adult daughters, encouraged his girls to call their mother regularly, even when she moved out of state. “I would arrange their flights to visit her in the summer, even to the point of paying for their tickets when she couldn’t afford it,” he recalls.

Coming Out Stronger Despite all the doom-saying, children raised in single-parent homes can come

out stronger for their experiences. To help your children in this area—in addition to minimizing the negativity and creating a sense of normalcy—divorced parents can provide children with role models and develop a network of friends, mentors and extended family to serve as a support team. Dr. Biberfeld also recommends modeling coping mechanisms. “Teach

On the School Front Although some parents try to keep the news of their impending divorce quiet, involving the child’s school is only beneficial in the long run. Here are some pointers for teachers and school administrators: • Invite divorcing parents in for a meeting early in the process, giving over the message, “We care about your child.” Strategize how to help the child and be proactive, rather than reactive. • If a child regularly arrives at school late because he’s switching between homes, speak to the parents, not the child. He shouldn’t be blamed for one parent’s irresponsibility or scheduling challenges. • Look out for signs of internal distress, like dropping grades or sudden social issues. A child may be suffering because her father has moved away, her mother is working longer hours, or she’s being ostracized by classmates. If possible, arrange for the child to speak to a guidance counselor or mentor. • At the same time, don’t put a child from a divorced home under a magnifying glass. Small issues that might be overlooked in other children can be highlighted in a child of divorce. If you need to call a parent in for a meeting, be sensitive to the parent and what she’s dealing with.


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

your children that although things have been difficult, we’ll come out okay,” she explains. “Give them a vision of what you hope to get to.” As a single father, Ben relied on the support of family friends to help his daughters through their teen years. “The wife of one of my good friends was very actively involved with the girls,” he says. “She used to take them shopping, she’d give me advice, and she’d listen to me complain. Today both of my daughters are welladjusted, mature, responsible adults. Like a lot of things in life, if divorce doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” Now in her thirties, Tali feels that her parents’ divorce has shaped who she is in “a thousand ways.”

For kids of divorce, their parents’ decision to separate, as well-intentioned or unpreventable as it may be, means that life will never be the same again.

“I’ve learned to put things into perspective,” she says. “As a teenager, I learned negotiation skills. I learned how to stand up for myself, not to be a pushover. I learned to make my own decisions. I developed some relationships with faculty in high school that really enriched my life later. Many friends have told me how lucky I am that I did that.” Alyssa, for her part, says that her childhood experiences taught her never to take anything for granted, least of all her marriage. “I work super hard to give my children stability, a home they feel comfortable in,” she states. “I do my best to model for them the best marriage relationship that I can.” Her journey has also given her a very strong belief in resilience. “A person can go through very hard times, but if they’re

determined to try and get the help they need, they can come out even stronger,” she says. “I really believe that with the proper support, willpower, and siyata diShmaya, you can defy your circumstances and grow past them.”

Note 1. S  ee, for example, E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (New York, 2002), and Catherine E. Ross and John Mirowsky, “Parental Divorce, Life-Course Disruption, and Adult Depression,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 61 (1999): 1034-1035. Avigail Rosenberg is the editor of Healing from the Break: Stories, Inspiration, and Guidance for Anyone Touched by Divorce (New York, 2015), and the creator of www., a resource for single parents and others.


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Dr. Yitzchak Schechter 46

Photo: Esther Chill

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

THE DATA ON DIVORCE: Q & A WITH DR. YITZCHAK SCHECHTER Dr. Schechter recently spoke with Jewish Action editor Nechama Carmel about his research on divorce in the Orthodox community. Dr. Schechter presented some of his findings at the December 2015 Nefesh Conference held in Hauppauge, New York, and is preparing several articles for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Please note that the article below isn’t meant to be a scientific review, but rather a translation of some emerging findings in the community.


r. Schechter is a clinical psychologist and director of the Center for Applied Psychology at Bikur Cholim in Monsey, New York, one of the leading mental health providers in Rockland County and one of the largest providers of mental health services to the Orthodox community. He recently launched the Institute for Applied Research and Community Collaboration (ARCC), whose mission is to conduct and disseminate research about health, mental health and social issues in the frum community.

Nechama Carmel: I understand you have a strong interest in data collection and analysis. Tell us about this interest and how you use it in your work. Dr. Yitzchak Schechter: In any area of life, knowing the reality of a given situation is critical. You can’t introduce change and determine if it is effective without measuring and evaluating it. This is true in halachah as well. A posek (halachic decisor) can only arrive at a pesak (halachic conclusion) if he knows the reality of the situation. While data collection is a modern concept, we see the importance of it in Torah sources. The Mishnah (Shevuot 7:7) says, for example, that you can’t take an oath and invoke God’s Name in a beit din unless [the case concerns something] that can be counted, measured or weighed; that’s what metrics are all about. It’s about accuracy and accountability. Relying on data and research when it comes to communal programs and funding helps ensure transparency and accountability.

How can we honestly gauge if a program is effective and if money is being well spent if we don’t measure the outcomes and its effect? One might have feelings or hunches about what’s going on in the community, based on his or her experiences, but is that actually the reality or just one’s perception? We’re using data in business, in medicine, and in all sorts of other areas; shouldn’t we have data about frum communal life? So one of my goals, which we have already begun working on, is to create and disseminate real data based on methodical and trustworthy research in the Orthodox community. We are not interested in ivory tower, picayune research. We are interested in research that has an application to the real world. The point is to use data to help inform policy, decisionmaking and real life. It’s really a revolution. A revolution in how we make decisions.

NC: How do you generally obtain data? Dr. S: Mostly through collaboration. We at the ARCC work closely with other organizations—clinics, schools and social service agencies—to capture data that can be useful and translated into meaningful knowledge. Of course, privacy is paramount, and all of the information we collect is anonymous. No one organization can do everything, but working collaboratively we can do amazing things. Just envision for a moment, if we were to collect data from clinics and clinicians, schools, shuls, mikvaot and batei din, we could get a really clear picture of what’s going on in the Orthodox world. We would basically be covering the entire life and community cycle of Orthodox Jews.

NC: You recently conducted a comprehensive study of divorce in the Orthodox community. Can you share some of your findings? Dr. S: Last year, we began to release some of the findings of our ARCC Divorce Study in the Orthodox community. The analysis was based on the survey responses of 310 divorced respondents and 194 married respondents across the US and Canada—a total of more than 500 respondents from across the Orthodox spectrum. The survey was really all-encompassing and it will take us another few years to finish analyzing and reporting on all of the data. Somewhat surprisingly, despite the fact that the survey was quite thorough and the topic rather sensitive, people were interested in telling their stories. Over and over again, from all of our survey respondents (not just in this divorce study), we hear the same message: “Thank you for allowing our voices to be heard.” Before we get into some actual findings, some background: the overall divorce rate in the American Orthodox community appears to be around 10 percent* with some variation, slightly higher for the nonChassidic frum population, slightly lower for the Chassidic population. We sometimes need to step back and see the big picture. Out of our zeal to solve all of the problems, we forget to put them in the proper perspective: A 10 percent divorce rate is amazing! (For the sake of comparison, the divorce rate in the general population is about 48 percent.) Also, because so many people get married * This reflects the divorce rate among parents of both married and divorced respondents.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


in the Orthodox community—we have a very high marriage rate (between 80 and 85 percent of frum American Jews are married)—the 10 percent statistic is even more meaningful. In other words, because the marriage rate is so high and the divorce rate is so low, marriages among the frum population are, generally speaking, lasting. Interestingly, the fact that the divorce rate is low leads to a different kind of challenge. It inadvertently labels those from single-parent homes as being “out of the box.” In the frum community, if you are out of the box, you can have a harder time fitting in. While it is certainly positive that divorce in our community is still a relative oddity, it comes at a cost. It can result in children of divorce feeling very different from their peers.

NC: Ok. So let’s discuss your actual findings. Why are people getting divorced? Dr. S: We looked at various factors that people said contributed to their divorce.

Factors Leading to Divorce in the Orthodox Community 28%

Verbal or Emotional Abuse

50% 37%

Feel Put Down / Demeaned Problems Communicating

45% 32%

Intimacy Issues


Mental Illness


Religious Differences 21%


42% 40%

33% 31%

28% 29%

Financial Difficulties Different Life Goals



Unmet Emotional Needs

Undisclosed Information





For both men and women, emotional and communication issues are among the most reported factors contributing to divorce. Charts: Rachel First

Based on the data, for both men and women, emotional needs and problems with communication are among the most reported factors contributing to divorce. For women,

abuse seems to be the single highest factor reported, although it’s hard to draw specific conclusions given the unspecific nature of “verbal or emotional abuse.”

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Another important finding highlights what we’re doing right and that it’s not all gloom and doom: Post-divorce, most people report doing much better overall. Ninetythree percent of divorced women and 84 percent of divorced men say they are doing better or much better after their divorce. We asked about people’s wellness in six categories (overall well-being, personal finance, work/professional life, religious life, personal well-being and interpersonal relationships). In all categories, aside from finances and religious life, both men and women report doing well. Both men and women report that finances present the biggest challenge post-divorce. On the whole, men tend to experience religious decline much more than women after divorce. This may be due to the fact that in general, women have custody of the children, which anchors them more to the community. Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish men do not do as well religiously post-divorce as compared to Chassidim,

who remain religiously stable overall. (Interestingly though, when Chassidim do change religiously, they tend to have greater categorial shifts, i.e., moving from Chassidic to Modern Orthodox.)

NC: Can you share other findings that emerged from the data? Dr. S: Data tells us the story of the good, the bad and the ugly. Though the overall divorce rate is only around 10 percent, sadly, the level of contentious divorce in the Orthodox Jewish community is quite high. Fifty-seven percent of the sample reported that their divorce was highly contentious or acrimonious. While we have not compared this to the general population, the numbers on their own are concerning. The contentiousness may be the result of a few factors: the get process; the very close-knit family systems in the Orthodox world; and the “too-many-cooks-in-thekitchen” phenomenon—the fact is there


are often many players and authorities (community rabbis, mentors, family members, et cetera) giving advice and directing the divorcing couple. Put all these ingredients together, shake them up well, and you get a very messy situation. Perhaps on a more positive note, our data indicates that mediation works much better than going to court. And contrary to popular thinking, more than 50 percent of respondents said that the beit din process was either positive or very positive. While there is still much work to be done, this is encouraging.

NC: You said earlier that application is very important. What are some of the applications of this data? Dr. S: Nearly half of the divorced women and a third of the divorced men in our study reported communication and emotional issues as being overwhelmingly significant factors in their divorce. Divorce is always going to be a reality. But by identifying the

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Are Your Parents Married or Divorced? Parents are married

Married Individuals Answered


Divorced Individuals Answered


Parents Parents are passed divorced away



5% 8%

Eleven percent of both our married and divorced samples reported that their parents are divorced. This demonstrates that in the Orthodox community, having divorced parents does not put one at increased risk for getting divorced.

How Are You Doing After the Divorce? 16% Same, Worse or Much Worse 84% Better or Much Better

MEN 7% Same, Worse or Much Worse

93% Better or Much Better

WOMEN Overall, both men and women report doing better or much better after their divorce.

primary contributing factors, and noting that a lot of them may be amenable to change, we can hopefully intervene and provide education, support and treatment for those contemplating divorce. Similarly, now that we know the risks post-divorce, we can plan for them. The fact that most people report doing better or much better after divorce is a surprising outcome and may be useful in


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reducing anxiety among those considering divorce, as well as among those guiding them. Obviously, divorce is a serious, life-altering decision. But assuming divorce is necessary, these findings may serve as a counterbalance to many people’s bleak assumptions about postdivorce life. Furthermore, since finances and religious life seem to pose the greatest challenges, perhaps the community, through the rabbanim or social service agencies, should provide financial planning assistance to those in the process of divorcing; similarly, we should be providing religious support and guidance before, during and after divorce.

NC: Can you give an example of how data can be used to set policy? Dr. S: As part of the study, we wanted to know if someone who experienced childhood abuse (sexual or physical) has an increased risk for divorce. We found some eye-opening but not surprising results: • Sexual abuse was seven times more common among divorced versus married individuals • Physical abuse was three times more common among divorced versus married individuals These findings are very, very significant. They mean that childhood experience of abuse is a significant risk factor for later marriage outcomes and must be addressed as early as possible. It is important for rabbis, clinicians, chatan/kallah teachers as well as the daters themselves and their

parents to know that abuse is a risk factor in marital dysfunction—this is true most dramatically of sexual abuse. This is not to say that abuse victims cannot have wonderful, loving marriages. It just means there’s an increased risk that needs to be addressed prior to and during marriage. I showed the data regarding abuse to a pre-eminent posek who is well versed in

I get this question all the time: “My son is being set up with a girl from a divorced home,” or “My daughter is going out with a boy from a divorced home. What do you think?”

mental health issues. Shortly after that, he was asked by a mental health professional whether one needs to disclose to the individual he is dating that he was sexually abused. The posek replied that he had always felt that one should because it could lead to later problems, “but now based on Dr. Schechter’s research, I have proof of it; the answer is yes. One must disclose this.” Two months later, I heard that a young woman consulted with this rav about the fact that she was abused and was about to get engaged. She was told to disclose this to her

soon-to-be husband. She did. Subsequently, the couple received the support they needed and married. They are currently doing very well. Other potential victims were spared because of this disclosure as well. This pesak is an ideal example of how data can guide public policy. In light of these findings, we are working on a specific protocol for rabbis and chatan and kallah teachers to follow when abuse is flagged.

NC: Very compelling. Are there other examples from your research of how data can influence public policy? Dr. S: Absolutely. I get this question all the time: “My son is being set up with a girl from a divorced home,” or “My daughter is going out with a boy from a divorced home. What do you think?” If one is primarily concerned about “kavod,” that is, social status and standing in the community, I can’t really help, as I don’t have data on that. If, however, one is concerned about whether or not there is a higher likelihood of divorce among those who come from divorced homes, I do have data on that. Contrary to popular belief, we found something rather striking: in the Orthodox community, being a child of divorce does not increase one’s likelihood of getting a divorce. Eleven percent of both our married and divorced samples reported that their parents are divorced. What this means is that in the Orthodox community, parental divorce is not a significant predictor for divorce in children. Assuming that an individual from a divorced home is emotionally healthy and has good relationships with people, there is no justification for rejecting such a shidduch on this basis alone. On the other hand, if someone has gone through very challenging life experiences and is not functioning well, whether he’s from a divorced or an intact home, one might want to consider such a shidduch more carefully. This data is useful for rabbis, shadchanim, clinicians and family members who are frequently asked about this. In general, as a community, we should not be basing critical life decisions on “yenting” [gossip or hearsay] or Shabbat table talk. We should go about making such important decisions the same way

we go about determining what car to buy or what investments to make—by doing thorough research and looking at accurate information. This approach allows us to more thoughtful in our decision-making.

NC: Is this finding true of the general American population as well? Dr. S: Not really. In the general population, there is a higher level of divorce among children of divorce. What accounts for the difference? One theory is the valuation of marriage. In the frum community, we value marriage very highly and make it an assumption of the life cycle. Marriage is less valued in the general community (where the marriage rate has been declining in recent years). Another reason may be modeling. Frum life is incredibly social and familyoriented. People tend to go to neighbors and friends for meals and get-togethers on Shabbat. Additionally, when young men and women visit other communities or spend the year in Israel, they witness models of marriage that are different than what they might have seen at home. These experiences enable them to see and learn from positive role models.

NC: Based on your research, what should the average community member be doing to assist children of divorce? Dr. S: As we said, we are doing quite a few things well. We’re very good at working within our comfort zone and serving the typical, everyday needs of community members. But we need to be a bit more thoughtful about how we can reach out to those outside of our communal comfort zone. What people really need is to feel part of the community. When you are divorced or a child of divorce, you are at risk of losing that sense. The founding principal and former dean of Darchei Noam in Monsey, New York, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, used to deliver a shiur during the school year to give parents an overview of the gemara that their sons would be learning that year. He would specifically invite mothers to attend since he wanted single mothers to have the ability to do the gemara homework with their sons. This illustrates the kind of sensitivity we need to have. While not every community would be comfortable with such an arrangement,

in every case and in every community there are ways to be more sensitive to divorced parents and their children without disrupting cultural norms. Shabbat and yom tov, which are family times, tend to be difficult for families of divorce. Inviting families for meals and helping them have the dignity of spending Shabbat and holidays in their own homes is of great value. Sometimes all that is required is thoughtfulness. Recently, a single father suggested that perhaps when women get together to bake challah as a segulah, the challah should then be given to single fathers who don’t generally have access to home-baked challah. That, he said, might serve as an even greater segulah. For boys, going to shul is so important. I know of two particularly messy divorces where a neighbor used to take the young boys in the family to shul every Shabbat; today, these boys are sincerely religious and connected to the community even though their fathers are not. In every shul, men and older boys should be thinking about what they can do for the boys from single-parent homes. The same applies to women in the community who can be there for young girls who might not want to be in the women’s section by themselves.

NC: Any parting words for our readers? Dr. S: Our goal here is not to share all of the details and nuances of this data, but to convey some of the important findings that can inform the conversation and decision-making process. We still have a lot of work to do. It will take us another few years to finish analyzing and reporting on all of the data. The research we’ve discussed is just the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to sharing more of it with the readership as we further analyze the data and learn more in the months and years ahead. To learn more about Dr. Schechter’s research, visit

Listen to Dr. Yitzchak Schechter discuss divorce in the Orthodox community at community/savitsky-schechter/.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION




e are drinking instant iced tea out of Dixie cups at a motel next to an amusement park. I like dipping my finger directly into the powder and licking it off. I am four years old. I like the motel we are staying in. I like the instant iced tea. I don’t like the question my father asks me. “Your mother and I are getting divorced. Who do you want to live with?” I stare at my father. How can I answer a question like this? This question means I must choose between my mother and my father. I know this is a trick question. Whatever I say will not remain a secret, and someone will be terribly hurt by my answer. I suspect that person might be me. My father is waiting for my answer. I dip my finger into the instant iced tea powder. It is lemon flavored and very, very sweet. I keep dipping my finger into the iced tea powder while I try to think of an answer that will not cause me to lose someone I love. Then the right answer comes to me. “I want to live with Jonathan,” I say. Jonathan is my big brother. He has brown hair and green eyes and a generous helping of freckles. I am four, but Jonathan is already nine. He must know the right answer to this question. He always knows the answers to all my questions. My father loves this answer. He thinks it is such a clever answer. For the rest of my life, whenever I am faced with a question I


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

cannot answer, I will think of this moment. I will think of how by deflecting the question onto my brother, I have bought myself time; for the next four years, until the day my brother chooses to go live with my father, I still have both my parents. Once my brother begins living with my father, things change. My family divides into couplets, my father and brother on one side and my mother and I on the other side of an unbreachable divide, as though the Berlin Wall has descended overnight to divide my family. I lose contact with both my father and my brother as a result of my brother’s choice. Three years later, I make a choice of my own. I begin living with my father, am reunited with my brother, and lose my mother. My mother remains on her side of the wall, and the wall is impenetrable. Even my own wedding does not create the possibility of reconciliation, because in my family choices once made cannot be undone. How did I know this as such a young child? How did I know to deflect the question my father asked me? I must have known then that a decision, any decision, would be catastrophic. I must have sensed the presence of the underground fault line beginning to form. A seed has been planted that will not be discovered until I am forty and married with children of my own. By then I know that good parents don’t ask their children these kinds of questions. When I am twenty-three years old, I get married. On the day of my wedding, I sit in a white rented gown that is fancier

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


than any dress I have ever worn. It is a beautiful dress. It is good enough. It is good enough because this gown, the make-up on my face, the sheitel on my head and the veils placed on top of the sheitel are all part of a costume designed to deceive the wedding guests into thinking that I am a typical bride. Yet I am not a typical bride, and this day, this dress, even my painted nails, are all just a diversion from the real question, a question that is actually quite similar to the one my father asked me when I was four: “Who do you want to live with now that I no longer want to live with your mother?” Now that I am twenty-three, it is not my father who is asking me a question that I am not ready to answer. It is my fiancé. Being religious means getting married or breaking up. So today, I am getting married. The first time my husband asked me to marry him, we had only been out on six dates, and because I wasn’t ready to say yes, I broke up with him instead. I broke up with him even though I already loved him because I didn’t believe I had whatever it takes to get married and not hurt him, or be hurt by him, as I had seen my parents hurt each other for my entire childhood. In the process of hurting each other, they tortured my brother and me into making impossible choices. Yet three months later, when my husband and I began to date each other again, I knew that I loved him, and therefore there was only one choice. I knew that breaking up with him again would definitely break my heart, but right then, there was no way of knowing whether marrying him would one day lead to the same devastating outcome. At twenty-three years old, I didn’t know what it takes to get married and stay happily married, and I am not sure I know even now, after being married for almost eighteen years. What I learned from my father on the day he asked me the question he should never have asked is that love doesn’t always last, and that any wedding invites the possibility of divorce to the wedding party. So even though nobody else saw his shadowy


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

presence at my wedding, I saw him standing in the corner, looking like my brother and dressed like the best man, opening and closing the box that held our wedding ring with a definitive snap. Sitting in the bridal chair, in the gown that makes me look like someone who is excited rather than terrified to be getting married, praying so hard for a successful and lasting marriage that will not be defined by the bitterness, divorce and devastation that defined my childhood, I forget where I am. Everyone keeps trying to shove little pieces of paper into my hands on which are scribbled the names of those in need of prayer, but I am too busy to pray for them because I am praying for myself. My prayer is interrupted when it seems as if someone is trying to pull off my veil. It’s the man I am supposed to be marrying—he is trying to figure out how to cover my face with the veil. Before I even see him, I start to smile. I smile because at this particular moment, I know that I love my future husband, and I know he loves me. For this single moment, I interrupt my prayers, put aside my questions, open my eyes and smile up at him. The photographer snaps the photo, and this single moment in time when I know that I love him, and I know that he loves me is captured on film and will become the official wedding photo that hangs on our wall. The photographer snaps the photo and divorce, the best man at my wedding, snaps the box with the wedding ring. I hear these two snaps simultaneously even if everyone else hears only one. My soon-to-be husband turns to leave, and I return to being terrified, only now my face is covered in an opaque veil and nobody sees whether or not I am still smiling. My husband walks to the chuppah with my father and his own father, one on either side of him. I rise and link arms with my soon-to-be mother-in-law and my aunt, my father’s sister, and follow my husband and his dancing parade to the chuppah. Under the chuppah, I circle my husband seven times as though these seven circles could protect us from the fate of my own parents.

The blessings are made, the ketubah is read, and my husband takes the ring from his best man. Still beneath the veil, I offer him my finger. Although I am not ready and never will be ready for this moment, I offer him my hand. He slides a simple gold band on my finger, and for just a moment, there are no questions. There is only the ring on my finger and the wine on my lips, which is lemon flavored and very, very sweet.

Afterword Every wedding invites the spectator of divorce to the ceremony. I was uniquely sensitive to this as a result of my own history, but in the world in which we live, divorce no longer requires an invitation. Each new young couple should, after the wedding gifts are unwrapped and the new dishes are toiveled and put away, take an honest look at their relationship, figure out what it takes to protect their fragile new attachment and divorce-proof their marriage. Marital therapy is most effective when a couple seeks help early on in the relationship, before patterns become entrenched; however, marital therapy is not the only answer, just like medication is not the only answer to health issues. We exercise, we take vitamins—we practice preventative health care to avoid getting sick. Our marriages deserve the same preventative care. Divorce is a risk we all take when getting married, just as getting into an accident is a risk we take when we drive. In the same way we continue to drive, we must continue to get married and raise Jewish families and not let the fear of divorce deter us from creating Jewish homes. We must pay attention to what we are doing within our marriages, and proceed carefully. Avoid collisions. Use brakes when necessary. Tzippora Price, MSc, is a marital and family therapist and a mental health educator who works in private practice in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. She is the author of hundreds of magazine articles, advice columns and blogs, as well as three books: Into the Whirlwind (Canada, 2010), Mother in Practice (Israel, 2010) and Mother in Action (Israel, 2013).

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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION



Scars of Divorce

By Tzippora Price


udaism has always recognized the necessity of divorce. In certain situations, when marital therapy and other avenues have been exhausted, divorce may be the responsible option. An environment of smouldering resentment, open hostility or complete emotional detachment is harmful to all involved—both parents and children. However, divorce can leave scars, and these scars can last for years. For adults who experienced their parents’ divorce, these emotional scars can influence their own experience of dating and marriage.

Overcoming Fear Children of divorce have learned first-hand the painful lesson that relationships can dissolve. They may be fearful of their own ability to establish a relationship that will endure throughout their adult life. They may experience their marital relationship as particularly fragile. They may fear normal marital conflict and view every argument as a serious problem rather than a natural occurrence. If these feelings spur one to work harder at achieving and maintaining shalom bayit (and not take his marriage for granted), then a negative experience can be transformed into hard-earned wisdom. If, however, these fears create a barrier to intimacy, and lead one to avoid open discussion and honest disagreement— necessary ingredients in a true exchange


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

between two people—then these feelings should be regarded as childhood scars. Scars can prevent one from risking becoming vulnerable, yet sharing one’s vulnerabilities is what allows one to form intimate relationships.

The Aftermath Not all divorces are the same, and as a result, the impact on the children will differ. Acrimonious divorces as well as divorces in which children are forced to choose sides will result in greater trauma. In contrast, divorces in which parents are able to manage their difficulties and continue to honor their shared roles and responsibilities in parenting their children will result in less trauma. Then there is the question of what happens after the divorce itself. Do one or both parents remarry? Is there a sense of having moved through a transition or a challenging situation and having emerged on the other side? Is there a sense of closure? Do children, despite their own feelings, experience their parents as happier and more at peace with themselves after the divorce? These are experiences that can mitigate the damaging consequences of a divorce. Divorce does not have to be a trauma. However, it is always a serious matter that does not end on the day the get is given. What happens after that day makes all the difference. Children experience less trauma when they maintain relationships with both parents, and when their world expands rather than contracts.

Forging Ahead Children of divorce should recognize that all childhoods have some painful experiences, and most adults carry childhood scars. It is important for young adults beginning the process of shidduchim to explore and appraise the ways their childhood experiences may have shaped them; they should examine their own expectations for a marital relationship as well. Cheshbon hanefesh, the ability to honestly confront oneself, is always useful for establishing the groundwork for a healthier and more stable individual. Eventually we must all emerge from childhood into adulthood, assume responsibility for our own lives and our choices, and learn how to let go of the tendency to blame our parents, which is so prevalent in today’s world. Only then and with Hashem’s help can we chart a course that enables us to establish healthy homes to nurture our children and ourselves. Tzippora Price, MSc, is a marital and family therapist and a mental health educator who works in private practice in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. She is the author of hundreds of magazine articles, advice columns and blogs, as well as three books: Into the Whirlwind (Canada, 2010), Mother in Practice (New York, 2010) and Mother in Action (New York, 2013).


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ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS: HOW TO STAY (HAPPILY) MARRIED FOR LIFE What’s the secret to marital longevity? Is the dream of living “happily ever after” really attainable? I asked the experts: four Jewish couples, happily married for at least four decades—one for more than six decades. The couples, ranging from irreligious to Chassidic and residing in three different countries—Italy, Israel and the US—agreed to share the valuable lessons they learned from one of the most challenging—and rewarding—relationships of their lives. By Bayla Sheva Brenner


en and women enter marriage with different personalities, expectations and sensitivities. How do these couples handle the inevitable conflicts that arise? “Love equals understanding the needs of the other; it also means giving in,” says Rabbi Michael Kanterovitz, a Sabra married to his Canadian-born wife, Malka, for fifty years. “I give in; she gives in. It’s the cementing force of marriage and hard work.” During the early years of their marriage, Rabbi Kanterovitz served as a community rav in Canada and subsequently, England. Malka reveled in the life of a rebbetzin but could sense her husband’s discontent. “He didn’t talk about it, but I saw his heart was in Israel,” she says. “I knew that’s where he would be really happy.” She suggested they make the move. It turned out to be a difficult adjustment for her. “I worked on myself big time,” says Malka. “Whenever you make a decision, you have to take into consideration the needs and the aspirations of your spouse. The reason I’m living here is because I love my husband and want him to be happy.” She says she learned the art of compromise from her husband. “He has a fear of flying but he knows that I enjoy it,” says


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Malka. “He’s worked on himself a lot. We’ve traveled around the world on a shoestring budget. He was initially apprehensive [about traveling], but actually began loving it.” Nissen and Judith Bron, married forty-four years, came into their marriage from opposite sides of the religious spectrum; he was Orthodox, she was not. They met at the Hillel when they were both college students. Just about the time they agreed to marry, Nissen started becoming interested in Orthodox Judaism. Although his new wife wasn’t about to give up her lifestyle, Nissen decided to hang in there for the long haul. From the start, Judith says she was drawn to her husband’s earnestness, his thirst for greater knowledge and his kindness. These qualities won her over. To Nissen’s surprise, Judith came home one night with a sheitel and tried it on for him. “He said I looked gorgeous,” she says. “He really loved it.” When they moved to an Orthodox neighborhood, she decided to take a few more steps. “My feeling was, ‘When in Rome . . .’ so I put on a skirt, like the other mommies.” “There were lots of areas in which we could have had arguments,” says Nissen. “But God gave me the brains to keep my mouth shut. I trusted we would work it out.”

Eugene and Miriam Greenberg at their

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION 63 wedding, January 29, 1956.

Making Time One secret to the success of these longtime marriages is that the couples continue to look for ways to strengthen their bond. For decades, Malka Kanterovitz managed an art gallery in a Jerusalem hotel. She would work late at night to accommodate tourists. Consequently, the couple made sure to carve out a time to connect. “On Friday mornings we share breakfast so we can talk,” says Malka. “Even when we don’t feel like talking, we make the effort. We believe in putting everything on the table. We used to have a ‘family counsel’ with our children once a week. If they had grievances, put it on the table and talk about it, let’s see what we could do about it. I believe that if you have an issue, find a solution. Don’t let it sit inside your kishkes. Deal with it. It will help you go forward.” Susie and Hershi Netzer of Italy, married forty-seven years, also make spending time together a priority. “Every morning, I say, ‘meet you after shul and Daf Yomi!’ We have our morning espresso and talk. It takes fifteen, maybe twenty minutes,” says Susie. “We discuss whatever’s on our minds, whatever is important to us.” “You have to constantly communicate from day one,” Susie says. “It doesn’t mean shouting. When couples shout, no one is listening to anyone. Look each other in the eye and listen. If you let things fester, it leads to a shouting match; don’t let it get to that point.” Effective communication can help forge a true soul connection. “Many times I’ll start

saying something and my husband will say, ‘I was just thinking about that,’” says Susie. “When you communicate for so many years, your minds become wired similarly . . . That’s a big deal. And a treasure.”

Humor and Humility When I asked Eugene and Miriam Greenberg of Los Angeles, married more than sixty years, if they had disagreements, they burst out laughing. When asked if either of them felt they had made mistakes in the marriage, Eugene quipped, “I don’t think we have enough time to go through them all.” “I’ve learned that my way wasn’t necessarily the best,” he says. “I saw she was right much of the time even though I didn’t listen. Someone as smart as she is—I should have paid attention.” But all of the couples agree that putting laughter front and center in the relationship helps tremendously. “If both partners maintain a sense of humor, it minimizes any potentially difficult situation,” says Susie. “You can reframe anything that comes your way. My husband and I use humor every day.”

Sharing the Hard Times When Judith’s youngest child was still an infant, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The condition affected Judith’s retinal nerve and left her eyesight impaired—but not her marriage. “I thought, ‘This poor guy, look at what he has to deal with,’” says Judith.

“I’d try to be independent. I’d get up in the morning and make the beds. Then I’d open the refrigerator and feel around for the bottle of apple juice knowing it’s in there somewhere. Finally I’d have to ask my husband for help. I feel so badly that he has to do these things for me. But he made it clear from the beginning that we’d go on.” Despite the Brons’ challenges, they continue to cultivate their mutual love for reading and history. On Shabbat, Nissen picks out articles that interest the two of them and reads them aloud to Judith. Enduring hardship can, of course, strengthen a relationshiop in the long run. When the Kanterovitzes went through a difficult time, they drew strength from each other. Their eldest daughter had three children who underwent kidney transplants. “It was a very challenging time,” says Malka. “My husband and I were both very supportive of one another. I look up to Michael and try to emulate his middot.”

Work in Progress All the couples conceded that in order for the relationship to flourish, it requires constant nurturing. “I should praise Hershi more than I do,” says Susie. “Recently he was asked to give a derashah in front of the congregation. When we got home, he asked me, ‘What did you think of my derashah?’ I was so upset with myself; why didn’t I think to say something to him before he had to ask me? You have to constantly work on yourself. [Even after decades,] marriage is a work in progress.” Malka concurs. “Marriage is a dynamic entity that you have to work on all the time.” Bayla Sheva Brenner is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Jewish Action. She can be reached at baylashevabrenner@

Listen to Miriam and Eugene Greenberg’s tips for a happy marriage at inspiration/savitsky-greenberg/.

Eugene and Miriam Greenberg, married for more than sixty years.


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Art historians and scholars no longer accept that this famous portrait by seventeenth-century Dutch painter Rembrandt is of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel. Etching on paper. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 66

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ost Jews with a sense of rabbinic literature and Jewish history have a mental image of what they believe Rambam looked like. That image is based on an eighteenth-century depiction, produced approximately 500 years after Rambam’s death. Similarly, there is a French woodcut of Rashi produced in the sixteenth century, some 400 years after his death. Portraits of rabbis, whether in painting or graphic form, are first found in Italy in the sixteenth century. (Why were these portraits popular? No doubt for the same reason that paintings and photographs of Torah scholars adorn the walls of thousands of Orthodox Jewish homes today.) Ask most Jews who created the very first notable rabbinical portrait, and in all probability they will tell you it was the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, regarded as one of the greatest painters in all of European art. Rembrandt, like many other artists of his day, drew heavily on Biblical themes. Because of this, and also because of his

choice of several Jewish personalities as subjects for his portraits—perhaps due to the fact that he lived in Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter—it has long been thought that he was associated with the Jewish community of Holland. But his relationship with the Jewish community is not as clear-cut as was once believed. In 1636, Rembrandt etched a portrait believed to be of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel,1 a major figure in the Amsterdam Sephardic community and certainly an acquaintance of his. However, art historians and scholars no longer accept that Rembrandt’s subject is, in fact, Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel; indeed, the sitter bears only a passing resemblance to an earlier engraving of the rabbi by the Jewish artist Shalom Italia. Interestingly, none of Rembrandt’s portraits of Jews can actually be identified with a specific rabbi. Overall, it is questionable whether his paintings with titles referring to Jewish individuals were, in fact, of Jews (although an etching he did in 1647 of the Jewish physician Ephraim Bueno is clearly Bueno).

So if Rembrandt did not create the first rabbinical portrait considered to be a great work of art, who did?

Artist James McArdell’s 1751 mezzotint on paper of Rabbi Aaron Hart is regarded as an excellent reproductive print of a rabbi. Rabbi Hart was the first chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and the rabbi of the Great Synagogue of London from 1704 until his death in 1756. Courtesy of the Library of The

Jewish Theological Seminary, New York

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While many seventeenth and eighteenth-century rabbinical portraits are quite good, none were painted by a major European artist and can be categorized as great. Moreover, for a work to be considered a great work of art, it has to be an original and not a reproduction. As an example of an excellent reproductive print of a rabbi, there is James McArdell’s 1751 mezzotint of Rabbi Aaron Hart, the first chief rabbi of the United Kingdom and the rabbi of the Great Synagogue of London from 1704 until his death in 1756. The print was based on a painting by Bartholomew Dandridge, a minor British artist, which was housed in the Great Synagogue, but was apparently destroyed during the Nazi blitz of London. This painting was never recognized as a great work of art.

A 1762 etching by Georg Friedrich Schmidt, a keen follower of Rembrandt whose etchings are considered some of the finest works of eighteenth-century Germany, seems to be the first rabbinical portrait in Western art. The etching on paper is of Rabbi Michel (Jechiel) Hirsch, the first rabbi of Potsdam, Germany. Courtesy of the Leo Baeck Institute, New York


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After conducting considerable research, we discovered a somewhat surprising answer to our question: the first notable rabbinical portrait in Western art is neither that of a famous Talmudic scholar nor of a spiritual leader of a large and impressive congregation. Rather it is an etching by Georg Friedrich Schmidt, an artist known for being a keen follower of Rembrandt, whose etchings are considered some of the finest works of eighteenth-century Germany.2 In 1762 Schmidt etched a portrait of Rabbi Michel (Jechiel) Hirsch, the first rabbi of Potsdam, Germany, a rather tiny Jewish community, perhaps consisting of less than one hundred families at that time. Schmidt depicts the rabbi dressed in a fur cap and the caftan traditionally worn by Polish Jews, with fur cuffs and tied with a sash. The artist imbues his rendering of the rabbi with the humanity and inner confidence typical of the later portraits of Rembrandt. The humanity depicted here is significant especially when contrasted with the anti-Semitic art so common in Medieval Europe, which often depicted Jews as threatening figures with hooked noses. At the bottom of the etching is a fascinating inscription reading, “Hirsch Michel presentirt an Isaac Onis durch Aaron Monceca—Hirsch Michel presents to Isaac Onis by Aaron Monceca.” The inscription refers to two characters, Isaac Onis and Aaron Monceca, from the six-volume novel Lettres Juives (loosely translated as The Jewish Spy) by Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d’Argens, published in the 1730s.3 The novel consists of a series of letters from five fictional distinguished Jews living in different European capitals, and it gained wide popularity throughout eighteenthcentury Europe. Both Schmidt and d’Argens were in the court of Frederick the Great and must have visited the king at his summer home, the Sanssouci Palace, in Potsdam—the town where Rabbi Hirsch served as rabbi. Besides this tangential relationship to Schmidt’s etching, it is known that d’Argens, a noted philosopher in the Age of Enlightenment, had an appreciation of Judaism.4 In fact, d’Argens hired Aaron Solomon Gumpertz as his secretary, who

later became the first Jew ever to be present at a meeting of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences. It is reported that when King Frederick asked his ministers, “Can you give me one single irrefutable proof of the existence of God?” d’Argens purportedly answered, “Yes, your majesty, the Jews.” It was d’Argens who directly appealed to the king in support of Moses Mendelssohn’s request to become a “protected Jew” in Berlin (Moses Mendelssohn was a pupil of d’Argens’ secretary, Gumpertz.) It is interesting to note that nowhere on the etching itself is there mention of Michel Hirsch being either a Jew or a rabbi; he is just a man with an arresting visage and distinctive stature. The print in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC does not refer to Hirsch’s religious affiliation. On the other hand, the subject is identified as being a rabbi in the catalog of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, and has been titled in art history literature as “The Jew from Potsdam.” Rembrandt supposedly sought the advice of Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel for some of his great Biblical paintings; Georg Schmidt may have had a similar relationship with Rabbi Hirsch. Whatever the reason for creating this etching, “The Jew from Potsdam” is one of the great rabbinical portraits of European art, and seemingly the first to deserve that title. Phillip Greenspan is an associate professor at the University of Georgia, College of Pharmacy and a print collector; Annelies Mondi is deputy director of the Georgia Museum of Art.

Notes 1. M  ichael Zell, Reframing Rembrandt: Jews and the Christian Image in Seventeenth Century Amsterdam (Berkeley, 2002), 58-59; Richard Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley, 1998), 33. 2. Liesbeth Heenk, Rembrandt and His Influence on Eighteenth-Century German and Austrian Printermakers (Amsterdam, 1998). 3. Julia Gasper, The Marquis d’Argens: A Philosphical Life (Lanham, 2014). 4. Ibid.

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“The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel . . . to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle; the critical hour has arrived.” —Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 30, 1967 And thus began the Six-Day War. A war school children know nothing of, millennials know sadly little and baby-boomers whisper about in reverential tones. A war that affirms the Divine influence. A war that acts as a metaphor for 2,000 years of inexplicable, incomprehensible Jewish survival. Six short days, when everything everyone thought or imagined was turned inside out. Why war? Oh, so many reasons . . . Syrian instability after the breakup of the United Arab Republic The newly formed PLO Egypt’s blockade in the Straits of Tiran Soviet influence in the region


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Design: Andres Moncayo All photos courtesy of the Israel Government Press Office. Individual photographers, where required, are specified in the captions.

An Israeli artillery unit bombarding the northern sector of the Suez Canal, June 8, 1967. Photo: Micha Han

The dawning realization that this experiment of a Jewish state was not going away Water, oil, history . . . All of which might explain the on-stage shuffling and maneuvers, but none of which encapsulates the driving force of it all, the menacing shadow of our existence which has clung to us without reprieve. June 5. War. Surrounded by mobilized hostiles on all of its borders, the Israeli air force brazenly throws the first stone, demolishing Egypt’s fighter jets while still on the tarmac. Vulnerable and unshielded, the Egyptians are driven back, through the Gaza strip, the Sinai Desert, right up to the Suez Canal. Jordanian forces begin shelling West Jerusalem, to which the Israelis respond with a crushing counterattack, capturing East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The war’s results? Israel more than tripled in size 777 Jewish deaths An exacerbated refugee crisis A boundary dispute with no solution A rabid enemy that populates nearly a quarter of the globe For there is no greater provocateur than a Jewish victory. As you read through the personal accounts below, of those who lived through those terrifying days of uncertainty, fear and hope, relive not just the terror, but also the wondrous Maccabean-like miracles of those extraordinary six days. Relive the sense of awe and wonder that Jews the world over— religious and secular alike—felt then, and reaffirm your own faith in the eternity of the Jewish people. Am Yisrael Chai. Faigy Grunfeld is a history teacher living in Detroit, Michigan.


On the first day of the war, Israel launched an air strike that destroyed the majority of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground.

June 7. Proposed ceasefire. Jordan hurries to accept the terms, with Egypt trailing one day behind. June 9. Syria continues to shell Israeli farmers and villages from its advantaged position in the Golan Heights. Another day of fighting brings the Syrians to the table and the ceasefire is complete.


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On that Tuesday when Hussein [King of Jordan] flew to [Egyptian President] Nasser, the atmosphere in the Knesset was that of Tisha B’Av—without exaggeration. Military experts felt that given the mobilization of Egypt’s forces, and those of the other Arab states—particularly their air strength—the outbreak of war could chalilah, destroy us . . . . The preparations in the hospitals were dreadful—the sick were removed to make place for the war casualties. Hundreds of graves were dug . . . The streets were emptied of men of military age—they had all been called up . . . . The Bnei Yeshivas donated blood—they gathered the crops, they worked in the hospitals . . . and when troops marched by the shuls and yeshivos they called out: pray for us. Day and night groups said Tehilim—the cries tore the heart. Women stood alongside every Aron Hakodesh, crying and pleading for Divine Mercy. And the war began. The center of the Land, Tel Aviv and its

Me’oras Hamachpelah, which a Jew was forbidden to enter for the last 800 years? Reprinted with permission from the Jewish Observer, “Extracts from a Personal Letter Written by Rabbi Menachem Porush, MK” (September 1967): 5-7. Courtesy of the Agudath Israel of America Orthodox Jewish Archives


A layer of smoke hangs over the Old City of Jerusalem from the exchange of fire between Arab and Israeli troops during the Six-Day War.

environs, were most exposed to the danger of air attack; from time to time the sirens wailed and people rushed to the shelters. Many places were badly hit . . . . Fierce battles were going on in the Negev and Sinai. One hundred and eighty tanks were in direct confrontation for 36 consecutive hours. War correspondents who had covered great wars agreed that they had never seen such fierce face-toface fighting . . . . Yerushalayim stood embattled face-toface with the enemy, surrounded on all sides by Jordanian forces . . . We were under a rain of shells and horrible explosions. Many fell wounded—many fell dead. The hits were devastating—they were calculated to strike at sensitive areas. Yerushalayim was under the threat—G-d forbid—of destruction, were it not for the super-human bravery of the men of the Israel Defense Forces, their demonstrations of bravery and strength, their indescribable self-sacrifice. Soldiers gave their lives, knowing that they were saving many others. There is no parallel to the miracle, and to the wondrous achievements of our Air Force, in destroying the Egyptian Air Force in the early hours of the campaign. Israeli planes evaded enemy radar and were undetected as they approached enemy airfields . . . thus being able to destroy their planes and remove the threat of massive airattacks. This completely upset Egypt’s battle

plan which was geared to destroying the major cities and only then pitting into battle the infantry and armor . . . . These were great days—awesome days. For generations fathers will tell their sons of the Mighty Acts. But . . . “Who can express the greatness of G-d, who can tell His praise?” . . . . One could talk for a thousand nights and not do justice to the miracles and wonders we saw . . . . Those who were optimistic about the outcome of the war felt they would be fortunate if they remained alive. They could not foresee that we would enlarge our boundaries Westward and Eastward, to the North and to the South. This we dared not even hope for. We did not dream—it occurred to no one at all, that we would yet merit the freeing of the Holy Places: the Kosel Ma’aravi, the Me’oras Hamachpelah, the Tomb of Rachel, Har Hazaisim, the graves of Yosef Hatzadik, Shmuel Hanavi, Shimon Hatzadik. Who could have thought that the Har Habayis, the site of the Beis Hamikdosh would be in our hands— that we would have to caution Jews not to enter the site till the coming of Moshiach? The Har Habayis in Jewish hands—it still seems unbelievable. Who can record our feelings as we entered the gates of Yerushalayim, standing opposite the Har Habayis and approaching the Kosel Ma’aravi; or as we entered

In May 1967, as the armies of Egypt and Syria prepare to attack Israel, and Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser announces, “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel,” the Jewish world falls into a state of great anxiety, even panic, fearing massive Jewish deaths only twenty-two years after the Holocaust. Inside Israel, many Jews with foreign passports flee the country, but the Rebbe tells people to remain in Israel and to have no fear. On May 28, just over a week before the war begins, the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe, speaking before an audience of many thousands, proclaims that Israel will soon emerge from the current situation with great success: “There is no reason to be afraid. I am displeased with the exaggerations being disseminated and the panicking of the citizens in Israel.” His optimistic pronouncements are headlined in Israel’s newspapers: “God Is Defending the Holy Land, and Victory Will Come Soon” (Yediot Ahronot, May 31, 1967). From Joseph Telushkin, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History (New York, 2016), 493.


Since I knew that on this day we would be liberating the Old City and reaching the Kotel, at around 4:30 in the morning I hurried to the home of my father-inlaw [Rabbi David Cohen, the “Nazir of Jerusalem”], who had a synagogue attached to his home. “I need your synagogue’s shofar,” I told him when he opened the door to the sound of my knocking. “We are going to liberate the

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Kotel!” He became so emotional that he began to cry, but he climbed onto a table (the shofar was tucked away high up in a cupboard), and gave me the shofar . . . According to Jewish law, when Jews go out to battle, they blow trumpets or shofars to assure their victory, as the Torah states: “And if you go to war in your land, against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before the Lord, your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies.” It was for this reason that I had brought a shofar with me. The moment we drew close to the gate, I began blowing the shofar, sounding it loudly in this war for the liberation of Jerusalem . . . . I began to utter a prayer in between shofar blasts and shouted to the soldiers, “In the name of God, take action and succeed. In the name of God, liberate Jerusalem, go up and be successful.” I kept shouting the entire time, until we were right on top of the Temple Mount, where I found Motta Gur [commander of the brigade that captured the Old City] standing surrounded by his soldiers. I had prepared a proclamation, which I then recited on the Temple Mount: In honor of the liberation of the Old City, the Kotel, and the Temple Mount from the enemy legions on 28 Iyar, 5727 on the Jewish calendar. Israeli soldiers, beloved of the nation, decorated with courage and victory, may God be with you, valiant heroes. I am speaking to you from the plaza of the Kotel, the remnant of our Holy Temple. “Comfort My people, comfort them, says your God (Isaiah 40:1). This is the day we have waited for . . . . The city of God, the place of the Temple, the Temple Mount and the Kotel, the symbol of the messianic redemption of the nation, have been redeemed this day by you, heroes of the Israel Defense Forces. Today you have fulfilled the oath of the generations—“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning.” Indeed, we have not forgotten you, Jerusalem, our holy city, home of our glory, and your right hand, the right hand of God, has made this historic redemption . . .

Commander Motta Gur and his brigade observe the Temple Mount from their command post on the Mount of Olives just prior to the attack of the Old City.

From Rabbi Shlomo Goren, With Might and Strength: An Autobiography (New York, 2016), 326-327. “Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who hast kept us in life and has preserved us, and has enabled us to reach this season.” —Brigadier Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief chaplain of the IDF, as he stood surrounded by ecstatic young Jews at the Kotel Ma’aravi, 28 Iyar 5727; June 7, 1967.


This morning, the Israel Defense Forces liberated Jerusalem. We have united Jerusalem, the divided capital of Israel. We have returned to the holiest of our holy places, never to part from it again. To our Arab neighbors we extend, also at this hour—and with added emphasis at this hour—our hand in peace. And to our Christian and Muslim fellow citizens, we solemnly promise full religious freedom and rights. We did not come to Jerusalem for the sake of other peoples’ holy places, and not to interfere with the adherents of other faiths, but in order to safeguard its entirety, and to live there together with others, in unity. Statement by Moshe Dayan, June 7, 1967.


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Since the generation of King David was a righteous one which believed in God, David could request from God that they be victorious in war through natural means, because even if they were to fight with weapons and all the methods of war and overcome and defeat their enemies, all would recognize that it was God who was responsible for their victory. But in the generation of King Asa, in which the people were not of such great faith, Asa feared that if they would pursue the enemy and overcome it and were then victorious, the people would say that it was due to their own strength, and therefore he requested that God should cause the enemy’s downfall before they even reached them. And Yehoshafat, who was concerned about the diminishment of faith in his generation, feared that even if they were just to pursue the enemy, they would say that they were victorious on their own, and therefore he prayed that God should smite them and he would only recite a song. And Hezekiah feared even reciting a song, lest they say, God forbid, that this served as a magical form of helping, and therefore he said that he did not have the strength to recite a song. All the more so in our generation, in which those of small faith have increased, we require miracles exclusively, so that

perhaps the people will recognize that it is God who is doing this. And so, thank God, this has been fulfilled, and He has produced the victory over Arabs far greater in number, who also had the assistance of a major empire for their weaponry, much greater than our state in the Land of Israel, and yet in just four days, they defeated all of the Arab nations and Egypt, in the time from Monday to Thursday, and we hope that He will send the King Messiah soon, and all Israel will recognize that “the Lord is a man of war” (Exodus 15:3). Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Darash Moshe, “Parashat Eikev” (Beth Medrash L’Torah V’Horaah, 1988). [Translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski]


Hard-boiled Israelis, even supposedly non-religious ones, have understood the religious dimension and significance of these events better than American Jews, even religious ones. Indeed, it had to be so; they were ready to, and did, give their lives, while we gave support. And, somehow, faith has closer ties to blood than to cash, no matter how plentiful, how abundant, how generous. No wonder that a radio correspondent told us over the airwaves that though he was never religious and

hardly recognized his Jewishness, when he approached the Kotel Maaravi, the Wailing Wall, he rubbed his cheek against it in affection and cried uncontrollably. A visitor, recently returned, told me that the day after the capture of the Wall, Jews who had never in their lives made a blessing stayed three hours in the hot sun in order to be able to pray in tefillin at the side of the Kotel Maaravi. And the press informed us today that yesterday, the first day of Shavuot, tens of thousands of Jews made the pilgrimage to the Wall . . . . Even observant religious people usually possess an element of doubt within their faith. We use this doubt to excuse many of our transgressions, and we excuse the existence of this doubt by saying that had we lived in the age of the prophets or the age of miracles or the age of revelation, we would be sufficiently persuaded and convinced to be able to live according to the highest precepts of our faith, but that the absence of any such evidence justifies this seed of doubt. Were we exposed to the same wonders as was Israel of old, “and Israel saw the Egyptians dead at the shore of the sea,” then we too would react as they did: “and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses” (Ex. 14:31). Such was the justification we offered ourselves for our doubt and our laxity heretofore. Now, we can no longer avail ourselves of that luxury. For we have seen, as did Jews in very special moments of history, ha-yad ha-gedolah, the “great Hand of the Almighty.” Through electronic eyes and ears, each of us has been a personal witness to the great miracle, the great revelation of 1967. Excerpted from Rabbi Norman Lamm, “O Jerusalem!,” a lecture delivered at The Jewish Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on June 15, 1967 (the second day of Shavuot), edu/gsdl/collect/lammserm/index/assoc/ HASH012a.dir/doc.pdf.

RABBI BEZALEL ZOLTY Brigadier Rabbi Shlomo Goren, chief rabbi of the IDF, carrying a sefer Torah and blowing the shofar, surrounded by IDF soldiers on the Temple Mount. Photo: Eli Landau

There is a great misconception among us. We think that the ones who need to be awakened to repentance are our brothers who are called “secular,” but we, the Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


religious Jews, and especially the rabbis, we have no connection to such a thing— after all, we are observant Jews; we pray three times a day. However, the truth is we have seen that specifically those whom we call secular have been awakened to repentance, but those whom we call religious have had less of an awakening, because we are accustomed to thinking that we are perfectly fine. This, in my opinion, is the greatest mistake, and we cannot influence others if we ourselves are not awakened to greater deeds and repentance. Speech delivered by Rabbi Bezalel Zolty to the members of religious councils at Hechal Shlomo: The Center for Jewish Heritage in Jerusalem (August 7, 1967). From Rabbi Shai Hirsch, “Anthology for the Salvation of the Six-Day War and Liberation of Jerusalem” [Hebrew], available at [Translation by Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski]


I am not a prophet. I am a simple man, but it is clear to me that were we to have a prophet today, he would declare: “Your throne is established of old! Praise the Lord, all nations; laud Him, all peoples. For His mercy is great toward us; and the truth of the Lord endures forever. Hallelukah. The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is His name.” The Vilna Gaon wrote in a letter to his mother: “If I merit to stand beside the gates of Heaven, I will pray for you.” He did not merit it, but we have merited it, and with God’s help we will stand beside Heaven’s gates—the Western Wall—to pray on behalf of the Jewish people. We will give praise and thanks, “Your throne is established of old.”

sought to transfer to Mercaz HaRav, and there were those who wished to be drafted into the army.” Rabbi Gavriel Botbol, a student in the Ponevezh Yeshivah in 1967, ibid.


“Even for these very secular kibbutznicks, people who’d never been inside a synagogue in their life, the feeling was overwhelming. Chief of Staff Yitzchak Rabin comes down and Moshe Dayan, the defense minister, comes down, both very secular Jews; they read Psalms at the Wall and wept. It was just overwhelming for anybody.” Michael Oren, American-Israeli historian and author of Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East in conversation with Eric Westervelt on “Six Day War: Jerusalem, United in Theory,” NPR, Morning Edition, June 6, 2007, http://

VIEW FROM DENVER: I.T. AND I RODE THE CREST IN 1967 By Hillel Goldberg “I.T.,” I called my best friend in college. I.T. and I had quite a reputation for

activism, having (among other projects) saved the JTS library after it suffered a devastating fire in 1966. But that’s a story for another time. The Six Day War broke out June 5, 1967. Throughout May, roughly a month before the war, everyone knew the war was coming. UN Secretary General U Thant pulled the UN troops out of the Sinai Peninsula, leaving Israel exposed; Nasser bragged about driving the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea; the tension was so thick it could be cut with a knife. I was a junior at Yeshiva College in Manhattan; I.T., a sophomore. The word was out that when the war came, Israel’s farmer soldiers would leave their farms and the crops would rot for lack of manpower. The Arabs could kill the Israeli economy if they tied up Israel in a war, even if the Arabs ultimately lost. So went the scenario. It was extremely plausible. No one—not a single eminence in Israel’s military or political echelon— predicted a six-day victory, let alone a victory at all. And so, I.T. and I had the idea of sending volunteers to Israel’s kibbutzim. Don’t ask me how we passed our courses that semester, for this is what we did: First, we convinced the phone company (without permission from the university) to wire

Speech delivered by Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz in the Mir Yeshivah, June 1967, ibid.


“After the victory in the Six-Day War, they recited Hallel in the yeshivah for two years on the day Jerusalem was liberated. Following the Six-Day War, there was an eruption of Religious Zionist sentiment in the Ponevezh Yeshiva. In its wake, students 76

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Front row, from left: General Uzi Narkis, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and General Rehavam Zeevi in the Old City. Photo: Ilan Bruner

Rabbi Shlomo Goren surrounded by IDF soldiers in front of the Kotel. Photo: Eli Landau

our dorm rooms with multiple lines. Then we went to work. This was the agenda: To convince as many students as possible to volunteer for the summer on Israeli kibbutzim. The heavy cloud of impending war meant that we had to convince not only the students, but often their parents and the Israeli authorities. We also had to put in place a system for a quick acquisition of passports. And quick reservations on the increasingly rare seats open on the few planes still flying into Israel. Not to mention, money to pay for it all. We asked no permission from the Jewish Agency, which, officially, was responsible for sending volunteers to Israel. We just acted. As word got out, money started pouring in. Rabbis raised money in their synagogues; people came in off the street; students pulled from their pockets or parents. People would literally hand us envelopes of cash, at first once or twice a day, then many times daily. We had credibility, for we actually succeeded in getting students to Israel. First a few, then a trickle, and finally a flood. It was complicated. The lines for passports were long. We did not accept that. Upon pressing the American authorities, we discovered that, by law, a citizen has a right to a passport

within 24 hours (at least that was the law then). We pressed our rights to the fullest. At first, “we” was I.T. and me. Quickly, the cadre of activists grew. By the time June 4 rolled around, we had several groups of student activists: experts in passport procedures; lobbyists at the Jewish Agency, who needed to approve the volunteer applications; and lobbyists at the airlines, who were very choosy [as] to whom they issued seats. Our money spoke. For every student who was willing to volunteer, we had the money for the airline ticket and the passport. At a certain point, the Jewish Agency turned over the keys to its offices. We now had as much space as we wanted to do our work, but the hub remained at our college dorm rooms. Morning, noon and night, they were a-buzz with activity. Each potential volunteer was a challenge. This one wanted to go, but his parents didn’t agree; this one’s parents agreed, but there was no current, valid passport; this one didn’t want to miss classes, and needed to be convinced that saving Israel was more important than grades for one term. I don’t remember how many tens of thousands of dollars went through our hands; I don’t remember how many Yeshiva students actually volunteered. I do remember that we had several students on the last flight out of New York before the war. In some ways, it was a typical ‘60s effort: Think for the moment; everything for the cause; nothing for daily responsibilities—and give the authorities fits (the authorities at YU, the Jewish Agency, the State Dept.). In other ways it was not typical: no drugs or promiscuity, just an idealistic, positive effort. Rather than rail against the establishment, we bent it to our will. The bottom line was that Israel trumped all. Slam. Darkness. In a moment, we were shut down. The war came. Our office was suddenly irrelevant. The Yeshiva shuls filled with students and with rabbis saying Psalms, as fervently as I’ve ever heard. We bit our nails. We waited. Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Israeli soldiers taking cover from Arab snipers in the Old City. Photo: Aharon Tzukerman

There was a news blackout for the first day or two of the war. Suddenly. It was clear. Israel had won—and won in a lightning flash. There were no farmer-soldiers pulled from the kibbutzim for an extended time. All the student volunteers we sent would now have a memorable experience, basking in the afterglow of the miraculous Israeli victory. They would not be slaving away on the kibbutzim. They loved it. Whatever the level of Israelconsciousness at Yeshiva before the war— and obviously, it must have been high; otherwise all those students would not have volunteered—it was ten times higher when all the volunteers came back to Yeshiva the next fall. Israel was on everyone’s mind; everyone wanted to go there. Not to study—there were no Israel study programs then. But they sprouted fast. At first, the only place to go was The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Then the yeshiva programs started. 78

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It was a crest, a wave. For a few frantic weeks in 1967, I.T. and I rode the wave for all it was worth. Reprinted with permission from the Intermountain Jewish News, May 13, 2005.


By Toby Klein Greenwald I can still remember the screaming headline in May 1967: “Straits of Tiran Closed.” I didn’t even know where exactly Tiran was, but I knew it was bad for Israel. It was, in fact, a blockade that Egypt put on Israel’s access to the international waters of the Red Sea, and it was an act of war. A variety of Arab leaders had proclaimed, over the years, that they would “throw the Jews into the sea”—which sea was academic. On May 19, Nasser did throw the 3,500 United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) troops out of Sinai so that he could move the Egyptian army in. When we heard the news, we were in the midst of preparing for and writing our twelfth grade finals in Yavne High School

for Girls in Cleveland, Ohio. I had been active in Bnei Akiva for years, and already had a plane ticket (for July 10) to Israel, where I was to spend a year at Machon Gold, one of the few gap year study programs that existed at the time. And then suddenly everything was thrown into question. What would happen in Israel? Today we speak about the miracles but in the dark days of May 1967, we only knew that the situation was perilous. Every day we said extra Tehillim during Shacharit, and when our class attended a Bais Yaakov convention in Montreal that year, I remember one of the Yavne Seminary students, who accompanied us, speaking with me about attending the seminary if going to Israel would not be an option. I could not fathom the possibility, but was suddenly thrown back into the dilemma of attending university in Cleveland, or seminary, or . . . what? How could I not fulfill my dream of spending my first year after high school in Jerusalem? Many of our high school teachers were married to the rabbis of Telz Yeshiva,

which had been transplanted to Cleveland service) on the tarmac of Lod (today BenTHE DAY YERUSHALAYIM WAS from Lithuania. Having lost most of Gurion) Airport on July 11, 1967. And the UNITED their families in the Shoah, and escaped first words on the lips of every person we By Rabbi Joseph Karasick themselves via Shanghai, these women met were, “Welcome home.” were terrified by the prospect of war. That first week in Israel I walked My Dear Ones, We were close enough to the Holocaust around the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, I’m exhausted, but I must write down my to know that another one was a real got to know the alleyways, and visited impressions while they are still fresh in my possibility, especially against the backdrop Hebron, where one could still see white heart and in my mind. of the violent Arab screams for death cloths flapping in the wind, a sign We left New York City at 10 pm and to the Jews. In and around school, the of surrender, as the Arabs had been arrived here non-stop at 2:15 pm local atmosphere was highly charged. expecting the Israeli army to come in and time. At Lod Airport we took a car for There are two especially vivid images massacre them, as they had done to the Jerusalem—and here the story begins. that live in my memory from those days. Jews in 1929. Instead of taking the regular road to One is of an Israeli Jerusalem, we went by girl in our school, way of Latrun, which wandering the halls used to be Jordan. in tears and saying Everywhere you go the that she had heard contrast between Jordan that Tel Aviv and and Israel hits you in Haifa—both cities the eye. In one week the in which she had Israelis have paved part relatives—had of the road already—and been devastated by when you reach the incessant bombing. unpaved (formerly) Arab These were the roads, they are primitive, only messages rocky, dusty . . . . All getting through— along the road you meet disinformation trucks of soldiers—all from the Arab radio singing, laughing, stations. Israel kept a happy. The motorists tight clampdown on you pass on the road are any information. all inwonderful humor, The other image and all are in a state of is one of unity. The euphoria. The cab driver A religious solider recites Shacharit next to his camouflaged tank in the Negev. Cleveland Jewish tells you of this miracle Photo: Shlomo Lavi community decided and that experience—and to hold a mass prayer rally, and the largest the entire populace keeps pinching itself to available area was the parking lot of And I visited the Kotel. Three make sure it’s true. “Two weeks ago this Conservative Park Synagogue. So the Australian students at the Machon took was Arab, and now it’s ours,” he says . . . . staff and students of our strictly Orthodox me there on my first Shabbat. There were And finally we arrived on the outskirts school loaded up on buses and joined the still huge boulders all over the streets— of Jerusalem and the streets are packed. rest of the Jewish community—Orthodox, remnants of the concrete walls that had Today is the day! Today, Jerusalem is Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated—to divided the neighborhoods of Jerusalem formally united into one city, the Old and pray together for peace in Israel. that had been torn down by the Israeli the New, and not only are the streets full of And then the news came. “The Temple army a few weeks earlier. When we Jews from all over Israel, but a remarkable Mount is in our hands!” The Golan, the finally reached the Kotel, on that hot July sight hits you—the streets are full of Arabs Sinai, Judea and Samaria, with our most afternoon, I began to cry on the shoulder by the thousands; on foot, on mule, and sacred places—the Tomb of the Patriarchs, of Shifra, one of Australians. “Don’t cry in cars with Jordan license plates. For the the Tombs of Rachel and of Joseph. There on me,” she said, “that’s what the Kotel is first time Jordanians are streaming into the was a tremendous sense of joy and relief. for. Cry over there.” New City, and on the faces of the adults But nothing prepared me for the you can see surprise and envy at what euphoria I sensed from everyone around Toby Klein Greenwald is a frequent they see—and the children look around as me when I alighted from that small El Al contributor to Jewish Action. if they are onanother planet . . . . What a plane (the larger ones were still in army stunning sight!

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


From left: General Uzi Narkis, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin enter through the Lion’s Gate into the Old City. Photo: Ilan Bruner

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Israeli Troops with an armored car in front of the Lion’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo: Ilan Bruner

The eye is assaulted by movement and color and you don’t know where to look first. I finally get to the hotel . . . and can’t wait to check in and unpack. I must get to the Kotel for Minchah. I rush to a cab about 6 pm but the streets are packed, as the Arabs have a 7 pm curfew and they are all rushing back to the Old City. He finally gets me to the Mandelbaum Gate, but the guard tells us it is closed. Finally, he says I must walk and I walk to the Jaffa Gate, which is the beginning of the Old City’s bazaar and marketplace, and I am transplanted back into history. The streets are narrow, dark, smelly, and dirty. . . . And in the midst of the Arab crowds walk thousands of Jews—young, old; men, women, children; with yarmulkes and without; boys, girls; soldiers and yeshivahleit with peyoth, bekishes and knickers. The Jews are all proud and fearless. We walk through the winding streets—streets where a Jew hasn’t stepped for years, and where a Jew hasn’t stepped without fear for 2,000 years. We walk up and down the winding, narrow streets and suddenly we come to an open space full of rocks and boulders. The Israel Army had knocked down entire blocks to make room at various points. My shoes are all white from the special Jerusalem dust. My suit is powdered with dust—but who cares. The road becomes

more and more difficult to walk, and finally I meet a “Meah-Shearim” Jew and ask him if he’s going to the Kotel. He answers, yes. I ask him if I can go along with him, and he agrees. Finally, we reach the place, and before my eyes stands the Wall! In front of it all the houses have been knocked down and it’s difficult to walk. A whole platoon of soldiers are there. Israeli flags are flying from many heights. I rush up to the Wall and kiss the stones. They are smooth from countless kisses and touches. They are cool, like cool, comforting, living flesh. And I begin to daven and I talk to the stones, and I know they listen. I place the kvitlach that I have in the cracks . . . . I remain there for about three-quarters of an hour to daven Ma’ariv also. I kiss the Wall goodbye, and I realize that it is dark. How am I going to make it back to the hotel in the dark, on foot, through strange roads, through Arab streets and quarters? I meet two Meah-Shearim yeshivah-leit and I ask them the way out. They tell me that they’re going my way and I can walk with them. We are in a wonderful mood and they are so friendly. These young men would probably not even have said hello to me last month, and now we’re wonderful friends, and almost brothers. They talk about “our army,” “our soldiers,” and only last month they were isolated in Meah-Shearim. I just

pray to G-d this spirit lasts . . . . Baruch shehechiyanu v’kiymanu v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh. Personal letter, dated June 29, 1967. Reprinted from Jewish Life (SeptemberOctober 1967): 12-13. Special thanks to Rabbi Eliyahu Krakowski for researching and assisting in preparing this special section.

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Help! I am going to a hotel for Pesach and I just started a diet . . . how will I stay on track?


Hotel getaways are not exactly known for their health fare, but generally the opposite—nonstop, over-the-top food. Just how important is the food to the Pesach hotel experience? “Very important,” says Rabbi Avraham Juravel, mora d’atra of Pesach Time Tours who is also rabbinic coordinator of technical services for OU Kosher. “People come to eat. They expect to eat.” A Pesach program veteran and a kosher concierge, Noah Lang—who is directing Palm Tree Getaways this Pesach—agrees “a thousand percent” about the role of food. “The food is usually one of the first three questions we get,” he shares. And abundance is a top priority. “You can’t say, ‘Sorry, we ran out.’ You can never run out of something.” The constant availability and quantity of delicious food means that many people end up gaining weight over a yom tov away. “I always say they should have a scale when people check in and a scale when people leave and charge accordingly,” jokes Rabbi Juravel.


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

So here’s your first prep step: change your focus to weight maintenance. It’s hard enough to lose weight over a holiday, let alone when you’re getting catered meals several times a day over Pesach. If you check in with the expectation that you will lose weight over the next eight or nine days, you are probably setting yourself up for failure. This can be very discouraging and might knock you completely off course. Instead, aim to maintain your current weight over the holiday. This alone is challenging enough; if you accomplish this, give yourself a pat on the back. If you end up losing weight anyway, well, then you’ll be even happier! Still, even with a goal of weight maintenance, you’re going to require some fortification as you enter the arena of the pesachdik bagels and doughnuts. Before you leave for the hotel, come up with a written plan to make smart food choices. Keep it handy and review it before your stay and then every day for the duration of your stay. If you can, share it with a family member or friend who will be attending with you so he or she can serve as a friendly reminder too.

Now, what to put on that plan? You’ll want to individualize it to your own unique goals and tastes, but here are some ideas to think about both before you leave and while you are at the hotel.

Pre-Hotel Plan Call Ahead: Well before your trip, contact the program organizer to find out as much as you can about the food and what will be available. If he’s willing to share the menus with you, great; you can go over these and decide what you will eat at each meal. Even if the menus are from the previous year, you can still get an idea of what to expect. At the very least, find out if you can make special requests, such as low-fat or low-sodium dishes. At some venues, these options are standard; at Pesach Time Tours for example, salt-free and sugar-free options are available to guests even without advance notice, says Rabbi Juravel—you just have to ask. Also find out what types of foods will be available between meal times or at buffets.

Pack Healthy: Bring along the healthy foods you like to eat so you know they’ll definitely be available. (If traveling by plane, it may be easier to pick up some wholesome fare at a local supermarket.) On Pesach your options will be more limited, but fruits and vegetables always work, as do nuts (opt for single-serving packs, if possible, to help with portion control), low-fat cottage cheese, yogurts or string cheese. Call ahead if you’d like a fridge in your room—many programs will provide a cleaned-for-Pesach refrigerator for an extra fee. Dress the part: Leave the elastic waistbands at home and opt for clothing that won’t let you overdo it. You know which ones I mean . . . the waistbands that will start to tighten if you enjoy too much of the buffet. Also throw in some clothing that is exercise-friendly, including comfortable shoes to enjoy walks around the beautiful grounds. Reward yourself: Before you leave, come up with a prize you can give yourself (not

The constant availability and quantity of delicious food at Pesach hotels means that many people end up gaining weight over a yom tov away. food-related, please!) when you return from your trip, rested and renewed—without having gained weight.

Hotel Plan Lay down the rules: Go into every meal with a set menu in your head, regardless of the time of day or whether it is dairy, meat or pareve, gebrokts or not. Most generally health-minded people will want to aim for some type of protein—lean if possible—a reasonable portion of carbohydrate, and plenty of vegetables. As you scan the food available, pick foods that meet those criteria,


enjoy them and skip the extras. You may be surprised, however, at some of the healthful options that are available. With the growing interest in nutrition and health in our community, many Pesach tour operators are responding. “We have many more salads than we used to,” observes Rabbi Juravel. “We can’t get away with just a tossed salad anymore—there has to be a whole array of salads and a salad bar available because that’s what people want.” It is also fairly standard to offer multiple entrée options—at Pesach Time Tours, for example, there are four entrée choices at every





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dinner—of which some are smarter choices (e.g., fish). Pace yourself: No matter what you’re eating, eat it slowly and savor it. To help with this, put down your fork or take a sip of water between bites. You will feel more satisfied and end up taking in fewer calories overall. This is especially important at buffets. “I always tell people to do a walkthrough first,” advises Lang. “No one does that, of course. Most people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs.” Use the same rules at buffets as mealtimes (protein, controlled carbs and vegetables). Eat what you love: Because there are so many delicious options to choose from, don’t waste calories on foods that are just so-so. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. Especially dessert, which can be a major diet disaster; Pesach hotels often specialize in enticing, eye-popping delicacies that make it hard to say “no.” Come up with an individualized game plan, based on your dessert profile:

People who live for dessert: Rather than telling yourself to avoid dessert altogether, it makes more sense for you to make concessions in other areas and try to limit the amount you eat for dessert. You can also set a goal like, ‘I will only eat one dessert each day,’ to avoid having dessert at both lunch and dinner. ● People who like dessert but don’t feel they need it at every meal: Set a goal that helps you limit dessert to just once or twice over your stay, or just if they have that special double chocolate cherry cheesecake you love so much. ● People who don’t care for dessert: Either enjoy fruit, if offered, or skip it. Stay active: The hotel experience is not just about the food. Take advantage of the activities, especially if they’re the calorie-burning type. Make a point to do something active every day of your stay. You can go for a leisurely walk on yom tov ●

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in between the shiurim and meals and naps. Make use of the tea room: It turns out some tea rooms today are not just noshfests. Yes, you’ll find plenty of candy and potato chips and cakes there, but often a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, different salads and other healthy foods to choose from. If, somehow, your stomach is rumbling between meals, head over and pick out a healthy snack to tide you over until the next meal is served. Otherwise though, steer clear. Repeat after me: It’s only food. Make that your mantra. “Eating healthfully at a hotel over Pesach is possible,” says Rabbi Juravel. “You have to make a conscious effort, but it can be done.” Shira Isenberg is a registered dietitian and writer in Memphis, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in public health nutrition from Hunter College in New York.



Charoset Salad

Photo: Miriam Pascal


ookbook author and caterer Naomi Nachman certainly knows a thing or two about putting a modern twist on traditional Passover dishes. Her new cookbook, Perfect for Pesach (ArtScroll), is packed with creative, imaginative recipes that are easy yet elegant, and are absolutely

perfect for Passover. Passover will never be quite the same! Enjoy! Recipes and photos adapted from Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman with permission from the copyright holders ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, LTD.

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Charoset Salad Yields 8 servings

Naomi wanted to include a version of charoset in the book, so she created this charoset-inspired salad with all of the flavors you expect to find: cinnamon, wine, nuts, apples and more. Candied Almonds 1 cup blanched, sliced almonds 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 tsp cinnamon Dressing 1/2 cup cream Malaga or sweet red wine 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 3/4 cup oil 2 Tbsp sugar 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp cinnamon Pinch cayenne pepper Salad 5-6 ounces baby spinach or choice of lettuce 3 Granny Smith apples, with peel, diced 8 dried dates, pitted and diced First, prepare the candied almonds. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add almonds, sugar, and cinnamon; cook for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved. Do not overcook or sugar will burn. Spread the nuts in a single layer on prepared baking pan; set aside to cool. Next, prepare the dressing. Combine all dressing ingredients in a container; cover tightly and shake to combine. Finally, assemble the salad. Add spinach, apples, dates, and candied almonds to a large bowl. Just before serving, drizzle with desired amount of dressing (you will have extra); toss to combine. Tips: ● Be careful when working with the candied almonds, as hot sugar can cause a painful burn. ● Nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 86

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about a week. Dressing can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge for about a week. This recipe makes a large quantity of dressing. Keep any extra in the fridge and use it to dress salads all week.

Shepherd’s Pie Potato Skins Yields 8-12 servings

8 red potatoes, with peel, cleaned well Meat Filling 1 Tbsp oil 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded 1 pound ground beef 3 Tbsp ketchup 1 tsp kosher salt Potato Topping 2 Tbsp oil 1 tsp kosher salt 1/4 tsp black pepper 1 egg 1/2 tsp paprika Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place potatoes on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, prepare the meat filling. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion; cook for approximately 5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and carrot; sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add beef; cook, stirring to break up the meat, until meat is browned. Add ketchup and salt. Reduce heat to low; cook for approximately 10 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Set aside. Once cool enough, prepare the potato skins: Cut each baked potato in half and scoop most of the potato flesh into a small bowl, leaving a small amount attached to the skin. (This will help the skin hold its shape.) Return potato skins to baking sheet. Next, prepare the potato topping by adding oil, salt, pepper and egg to reserved potatoes. Mash until smooth. Set aside. To assemble, fill each potato skin with

meat mixture, then spoon or pipe mashed potatoes over it. Sprinkle paprika over potatoes. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until tops are golden.

Quinoa and Mushroom Stuffed Capons Yields 8 servings

Capons are attractive when served for a yom tov meal, and they make a great change from roasts and meat. In the kosher market, capon refers to a deboned chicken thigh with the skin on. The skin keeps the capons moist while cooking, and the filling becomes a built-in side dish. 8 chicken capons Stuffing 1 Tbsp oil 1 large onion, diced 10-ounces white button mushrooms, finely diced 1 1/2 cups raw quinoa 2 cups water 1 tsp kosher salt 1/4 tsp black pepper Sauce 1 Tbsp oil 1 large onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, crushed 3/4 cup ketchup 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 cup water First, prepare the stuffing. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until they start to brown. Add mushrooms; cook for an additional few minutes, until softened. Add quinoa, water, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook, covered, for approximately 15 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 1 (9 x 13inch) baking pan. Stuff each capon with quinoa mixture. Place stuffed capons into prepared pan. Place any remaining stuffing around the capons. Set aside.




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Next, prepare the sauce. In a small pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions; fry until translucent. Add remaining sauce ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook for five minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly. Pour over capons in pan. Cover pan tightly; bake for 1 hour. Uncover; bake for an additional 30 minutes, until the tops start to brown. Serve with additional stuffing on the side.

Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze Yields 1 large Bundt cake

A Pesach cake recipe that will have people asking “Is this really a Pesach cake?” Cake 2 1/2 cups almond flour 1 cup cocoa powder 1/2 cup potato starch 1 Tbsp instant coffee granules 1 1/2 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup oil 1 Tbsp imitation vanilla extract 6 eggs Coffee Glaze 1 cup powdered sugar 1 Tbsp brewed coffee 1 tsp oil Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a Bundt pan well; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour, cocoa powder, potato starch, coffee, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Add dry ingredients; stir to combine. Pour batter into Bundt pan; bake 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely in the pan. While cake cools, mix up the coffee glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients to form a glaze. If the glaze is too thick to pour, add water, 1/2 teaspoon at


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Fudgy Chocolate Bundt Cake with Coffee Glaze Photo: Miriam Pascal

a time, until desired texture is reached. Once completely cool, remove cake from pan and pour the glaze over it.

Norene Gilletz is a leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada.

A quality Jewish education shouldn’t break the bank.

That’s why the Teach Advocacy Network brought millions of dollars to Jewish day schools last year.

And we’re not done. The Teach Advocacy Network, a project of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, fights to make sure Jewish day schools and yeshivas get equal funding from state and local government. We believe every child deserves a quality Jewish education regardless of income. An investment in our children is an investment in our future.




[Nowadays] it’s harder to do kiruv. We have to work a little harder to get the same results. But anyone who dares to say that the neshamot of Klal Yisrael have gone to sleep has not been to an NCSY Yarchei Kallah.”

RABBI AVRAHAM EDELSTEIN, Educational Director of Neve College for Women in Israel, who attended this year’s NCSY Yarchei Kallah, held in Somerset, New Jersey in December. The annual five-day retreat gives public school teens the opportunity to learn Torah during their winter break.

Design: Rachel First

“ 90

The dollars Senator Flanagan allocated for our school will have a tremendous impact on our children.” RABBI PERRY TIRSCHWELL, Executive Director of Shulamith School for Girls, one of the ten schools in Long Island’s Five Towns that will be beneficiaries of an additional $600,000 in New York State education grant funds. Thanks to the efforts of Teach NYS, a project of the OU Advocacy Center, and New York State Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan, the grant money will enable these schools to expand their after-school programs in performing arts, competitive sports and academic enrichment, among others.

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

I poked my head into many shiurim and walked around the huge beit midrash. Not a single kid was slacking off; the fact that 300 public school kids chose to spend their winter break learning Torah is an amazing testimony to the resilience and kedushah of the Jewish people.” RABBI EDELSTEIN on the recent NCSY Yarchei Kallah.

For most people, Nashville isn’t on their radar. We want to put it there. We have a uniquely cohesive Jewish community worth considering, and the community fair is the best way for us to showcase that.” MICAH COLEMAN, lead organizer for Nashville, Tennessee’s delegation at the upcoming OU Sixth Annual International Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair. The fair, to be held in April, highlights thriving communities across the US that offer the amenities of Orthodox life at a lower cost than in the New York metro area. OU Israel and Nefesh B’Nefesh will represent Israel at the fair.

How do we keep our shuls open and friendly without being vulnerable?” GRACIE ROSENBLUM, Executive Director at Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion in Baltimore, Maryland, discussing the presentation on shul security at the Ninth Annual Executive Directors Conference. Sponsored by the OU’s Department of Synagogue Services, the threeday conference in the Five Towns in New York provided mentoring and networking opportunities, and addressed a variety of timely topics.

We don’t say that we’ve solved the problem, but we’ve definitely made a breakthrough.” ZAHAVA SAMET, Logistics Manager of Bring Israel Home (BIH), on the challenge of keeping Birthright Israel alumni connected to Judaism and Israel after their trip. Launched in 2012, BIH, a project of the OU, is widely regarded as one of the most successful Birthright follow-up programs.

IN NUMBERS $345,000,000

allocated by New York state legislature to non-public schools in 2016, thanks to the efforts of the OU Advocacy Center and Teach NYS.


Downloads of the new NCSY Bencher App in its first month


raised by Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, an agency of the Orthodox Union, in its first twenty-four hour all-or-nothing Charidy crowd-funding campaign.


OU Sixth Annual International Jewish Communities Home and Job Relocation Fair Sunday, April 30, 2017 New York, New York

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


Torah in the


J A N UA R Y 1 5 , 2 0 17 This past January, close to 1,500 men and women from the tri-state area and beyond flocked to Citi Field’s conference center in Queens, New York for a day-long learning program of halachah, hashkafah, Tanach and Israel. Created and presented by the OU, the event featured more than thirty distinguished male and female speakers including scholars, educators, activists and others at the forefront of contemporary Jewish life. Speakers included Rabbi Shalom Rosner, Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Charlie Harary, Raizi Chechik, Rabbi Yonason Sacks, Rabbi David Fohrman, Professor Nechama Price, Rabbi Hayyim Angel, Rabbi Steven Weil and Shira Smiles, among many others. “With this event we begin to expand the OU’s outreach to Jews from all walks of life on the importance of Torah study as a means to become closer to God,” says Moishe Bane, the newly installed OU President, a prominent New York attorney at Ropes & Gray LLP and longtime Orthodox Union lay-leader.

Lectures are available on

Israeli Ambassador Dani Dayan reciting the Prayer for the Welfare of Israel. 92

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO, OU Kosher, leading a question-andanswer session on kashrut issues.

Raizi Chechik, Principal of the Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett, NY, speaking about the historic roles of women in Torah transmission.

From left: Allen Fagin, OU Executive Vice President; Ambassador Dayan; newly inaugurated President of the OU Moishe Bane; and outgoing President Martin Nachimson.

Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon discussing “Israeli Soldiers Under Fire: Questions & Answers.”

Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, Director of PUAH Institute in the US, delivering a talk on “Are Edited Embryos Kosher? Pre-implantation Diagnosis in Jewish Law.”

Mr. Fagin addresses the audience at the first plenary of the day.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION




OU Leaders Deliberate Issues Facing Orthodoxy On the Shabbat preceding Torah in the City, some fifty couples—including new and veteran OU board members—came together at the Clinton Inn at Tenafly, New Jersey, to deliberate on issues facing the Orthodox community today. The incredible weekend featured thought-provoking presentations and interactive discussions on a range of topics. “The Leadership Shabbaton was a wonderful opportunity for OU leaders to come together in a relaxed atmosphere, to foster the bonds that facilitate collegial decision making, and to quietly discuss issues of concern to our community,” said Allen Fagin, OU Executive Vice President.

OU Recognizes Marty Nachimson’s Outstanding Leadership

From left: Liz Nachimson, former OU President Martin Nachimson and Allen Fagin, OU Executive Vice President. Photo: Kruter Photography

On Motzaei Shabbat, a special dinner was held in honor of the outgoing OU president, Martin Nachimson. Deeply devoted to the OU for more than four decades, Mr. Nachimson was recognized for his outstanding leadership and commitment to OU causes. “It was a pleasure to have worked in Marty Nachimson’s administration and an honor to succeed him in building upon his accomplishments,” says OU President Moishe Bane. ”The Tribute Dinner just scratched the surface in recognizing Marty’s decades long contribution to the Orthodox Union, and in particular, his leadership over the past four years.”

Keeping Birthright Alumni Jewishly Engaged Nearly 100 Bring Israel Home (BIH) participants came together for a reunion at the National IAC Conference at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, DC this past September. The BIH retreat serves as the reward for participants who successfully complete the “100 Point Challenge,” a competition that entails earning 100 points of Jewish activity in the three months following their Birthright trip. Under the auspices of the OU, BIH is an innovative Birthright follow-up program that seeks to keep alumni engaged in Jewish life. “One of the reasons BIH is so successful,” says Zahava Samet, Logistics Manager of BIH, “is because participants can customize their own experience; they get to choose their own Jewish adventure and see what speaks to them.” Participants earn points in the competition for engaging in Jewish and Israel-related activities like hosting a Shabbat dinner, attending a local Jewish community event, reading an article about Israel, taking a Hebrew language class or cooking Israeli food, among many other options. 94

JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

Standing in front of the BIH banner, six of the ten Israeli soldiers who were flown in for the September 2016 Reunion. From left: Eyal Najjar, Gal Hazan, Golan Levy, Bar Ronen, Meital Heled and Ya-lee Shur.

Learning in LA Thousands throughout the Los Angeles area participated in lively Torah discussions during the OU West Coast Convention held this past December. The annual communitybased convention engages local OU member synagogues and their congregants in meaningful shiurim and discussions. Scholars-inresidence are hosted within the community and paired with individual shuls. This year’s five-day event, themed “The Jew in Galut: The Secret to Our Survival,” covered topics such as post-presidential election challenges, navigating Jewish life in a secular/legal climate and twenty-first-century parenting.

OU West Coast Convention keynote speaker Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, dispelled media myths concerning the State of Israel at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. From left: Allen Fagin, OU Executive Vice President; Scott Kreiger, President, OU West Coast; Sam Grundwerg, Israel Consul General in Los Angeles; Mr. Hoenlein; Rabbi Steven Weil, OU Senior Managing Director; Martin Nachimson, Former OU President; Rabbi Kalman Topp, Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation of Beverly Hills; Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director, OU West Coast; and Dr. Steven Tabak, OU West Coast Chairman of the Board.


West Hempstead, NY Brooklyn, NY New York City, NY Queens, NY Flushing, NY Sharon, MA Stamford, CT

Los Angeles, CA San Diego, CA

More than thirty Yachad Shabbatons were held in over a dozen communities across the US and Canada during the past year. Yachad Shabbatons are inclusive weekend retreats where Yachad members can enjoy exciting programming with a peer group, fostering new friendships and building social skills in a fun and educational atmosphere.

Toronto, ON Chicago, IL East Brunswick, NJ Cleveland, OH Livingston, NJ Baltimore, Asbury Park, NJ MD Fairlawn, NJ Edison, NJ West Orange, NJ Englewood, NJ

Hollywood, FL Miami, FL

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


NEW POSITIONS & PROMOTIONS Zev Palatnik joined the OU Advocacy Center as a Legislative Fellow in August 2016. Zev studied

at Yeshivat Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem before joining the IDF, where he served in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion and picked up Hebrew during basic training. After returning to the US, Zev interned with SKDKnickerbocker, a political consulting firm in DC, and worked on the Hill as a congressional intern for US Representative Don Beyer of Virginia.

The OU Advocacy Legislative Fellowship is an intensive one-year position where participants work with OU Advocacy professional staff as they advocate in Washington for Jewish values and interests in the public policy arena. Fellows monitor legislative activity, work with synagogues and day schools, coordinate special events, create educational materials and help mobilize the grassroots of American Orthodox Jewry. Previous Legislative Fellows have continued on to obtain significant positions in politics and Jewish communal life.

Arielle Frankston-Morris has been appointed Pennsylvania Director for Teach PA, a branch of the

Teach Advocacy Network, a project of the OU Advocacy Center. Arielle has worked for the Teach Advocacy Network for four and a half years as the field director for Teach NJS and then Teach NYS, expanding the network’s community outreach efforts. She worked directly with Jewish day schools to help them maximize millions of dollars in government funds, organized grassroots missions to the state capital and orchestrated get-out-the-vote efforts. As Director for Teach PA, Arielle will be working from its Philadelphia office. “I’m very much looking forward to returning to my home state and focusing my energies on the communities I know so well,” says Arielle, a native of Harrrisburg. She received her bachelor’s degree from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women and a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College, specializing in community organizing and clinical work. At Teach PA, Arielle will work with nonpublic schools, community leaders, parents and lawmakers to maximize funding opportunities and scholarships for nonpublic schools.

Iconic NCSY Bencher Goes Digital

The NCSY Bencher, edited and translated by David Olivestone, former OU Director of Communications, has been a staple in Jewish households for over thirty years, with more than 2.5 million copies in print. Now this iconic bencher, which has been translated into several languages, is available in digital format as The NCSY Bencher App, a free app for iPhone and Android. The brainchild of Samuel Waller, a financial advisor in Manhattan, the app features a database of 125 audio recordings as a way for both newcomers and old-hands alike to learn and enjoy the melodies of benching, zemirot and songs, sung with beautiful harmonies by the talented Jewish musician Aryeh Kunstler. Download links can be found at

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JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

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Hungarian and German editions released



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Second revision

Publicación en Honor a la Familia FiscHmann

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Spanish edition released


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EL BIRKÓN DE NCSY • Edición en Español




NCSY Bencher first published

EL BIRKÓN DE NCSY Edición en Español

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Launch of The NCSY Bencher App

Join the Orthodox Union and growing Jewish communities from around the globe for a day of information, introduction and imagining.




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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION




Reviewed by David Luchins


he last forty years have witnessed a veritable revolution in the world of English-language books designed for the Orthodox community. From ArtScroll to OU Press and from Feldheim to the Israel Bookshop, we enjoy a plethora of well-written books examining every aspect of Orthodox Jewish theology and role models. Despite the abundance of Jewish books, you will be hard-pressed to find a single book in English devoted to the founder of the fastest-growing and quite possibly the largest single American Jewish group: Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum and the Satmar Jewish community. Satmar has 32,000 students enrolled in New York area yeshivot. Over one-third of all first graders in Jewish schools in the metropolitan New York area attend Satmar schools. And yet this huge segment of our community is, for the most part, not reflected on our bookshelves or in our bookstores. There are cogent explanations for this curious anomaly. The walls between Satmar and the rest of the Jewish community are hardly a coincidence. They were designed by the Rebbe when he arrived on these shores in 1947 in a deliberate effort to ensure the purity of his tiny


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

band of Holocaust survivors. These walls have been reinforced through the years by barriers of language and culture and, even more so, by the rest of the Orthodox community’s opposition to the Rebbe’s extremely strong stance against the Zionist movement and the creation and continued existence of the “Zionist entity.” The Rebbe’s nuanced refusal to join together with Israel’s non-Jewish enemies hardly placated those who only heard the similarities of his rhetoric. For over half a century Rabbi Hertz Frankel, a college-educated Agudist product of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, has been the bridge between the Englishspeaking contemporary Orthodox world and the rapidly expanding, increasingly insular, self-sustained world of Satmar. His memoir, The Satmar Rebbe and His English Principal, provides a unique look at what is, for most of us, a largely uncharted world. Rabbi Frankel was appointed the “goyish principal” (i.e., secular studies principal) of Satmar’s fledgling Bais Rochel school system in 1959. He is still there. (To put things in perspective, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States in 1959.) It was not, and is not, an easy job. The textbooks are heavily censored. The curriculum is rigorously structured. And for nigh unto six decades Rabbi Frankel has persevered and succeeded in educating generations of young women (who are now the great-grandmothers, grandmothers and mothers of his current students).1 I learned a lot from this book. It is different. It does not reflect the Satmar Rebbe’s wondrous quip that “the stories in the biographies of gedolim are written first and then they decide whom to attribute them to.” This is a well-written book, loaded with dozens of “inside Satmar” secrets. (Who would have guessed that the Rebbe was against uniforms for Bais Yaakov girls because then “they think they can be less tzenius at home?”) To read The Satmar Rebbe and His English Principal is to relive long-forgotten communal history—such as “Eyfoe Yossele?”2 and “Stop the Autopsies”3—and share a rare look into historic moments, including the Rebbe’s and the Rebbetzin’s

role in forging a vital living legacy that impacts so many Jews around the world in so many ways. I particularly enjoyed Rabbi Frankel’s many anecdotes about the Satmar Rebbe’s interactions with other gedolei Yisrael, which for some reason are rarely found in the latter’s biographies. My favorite moment is when the Satmar Rebbe invited Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky and Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman to an urgent secret December meeting in Williamsburg, and took the unusual step of davening Minchah at 1:30 pm, before they came, to accommodate his guests. When the roshei yeshivah arrived at 4 pm, Rabbi Kamenetsky promptly suggested that they daven Minchah before the meeting. “The Rebbe smiled and announced (in Yiddish), ‘I already davened.’ Reb Yaakov [Kamenetsky] responded, ‘This whole gathering today is kedai [worthwhile], just to have the Satmar Rebbe daven Mincha one time in his life in a proper zman.’” This book is choc-a-bloc full of such delicious nuggets. It is that rare book that informs and entertains at the same time. This

“The walls between Satmar and the rest of the Jewish community are hardly a coincidence. They were designed by the Rebbe when he arrived on these shores in 1947 in a deliberate effort to ensure the purity of his tiny band of Holocaust survivors.” reviewer, however, is left with two qualms. Firstly, Rabbi Frankel is a bit too modest about the historic role he played in so many of the events he discusses. In particular, he fails to highlight the vital part he played in the creation and workings of the Presidential Commission to protect overseas cemeteries. This story and many others will

have to await Rabbi Frankel’s next book. Secondly, there can be no denial of the Satmar Rebbe’s historic impact on world Jewry. Many of the positions he first championed have become normative in much of the Orthodox world. His influence is reflected in the increasing prevalence of gender separation at communal and public events, the virtual disappearance of television sets from “right-of-center” Orthodox homes, as well as in the insistence of separate “kosher textbooks” in so many of our day schools and high schools. These were all positions first articulated and championed by the Satmar Rebbe. But the degree to which Rabbi Frankel presents him as the seminal figure in post-war North American Orthodoxy is a bit off-setting for this Yeshiva College graduate from a Lubavitcher family who has spent his adult life working at Touro College while volunteering for NCSY and the Orthodox Union. The existence of the rest of the Orthodox world is only hinted to in the book to the degree that they interfaced (several of the great “Lithuanian” roshei yeshivah) or did

not interface (the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Yeshiva University and the Orthodox Union) with the Satmar Rebbe. But in fairness, it should be noted that I have perused the popular biographies of the aforementioned giants as well as the histories of the institutions, and can report that they hardly ever mention the Satmar Rebbe. Which is exactly as he would have wanted it to be.

Notes 1. T  here have recently been a number of articles, books and even legal challenges by graduates of the Satmar school system deploring the limited nature of the secular education received by girls in those schools (not to mention the virtual absence of any secular education in the boys’ schools). If anything, these criticisms highlight the challenges that Rabbi Frankel has faced through the years from those who were opposed to any interaction with the “goyish world.” 2. Yossele Schumacher was kidnapped in 1960 by Neturei Karta activists at the request of his religious grandparents to

prevent his court-ordered return to his secular parents. He was smuggled to the United States and lived in the Satmar community of Williamsburg until he was discovered by the FBI and Mossad (led by Isser Harel, who had previously overseen the capture of Adolph Eichmann). This entire incident led to enormous tension between the Chassidic and secular Israeli communities, and “Eyfoe Yossele” became a rallying cry for those who demanded his return to his parents. 3. Autopsies were allegedly routinely conducted after any death in many Israeli hospitals until the Begin government curtailed this practice in 1977. This was a major flashpoint between the religious and secular communities during the first three decades of Israeli independence. Dr. David Luchins serves as chair of the Political Science Department of Touro College and has been active in the Orthodox Union since he joined NCSY in junior high.

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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


RASHI: THE MAGIC AND THE MYSTERY By Avigdor Bonchek Gefen Publishing House Jerusalem, 2015 132 pages

Reviewed by Yitzchak Etshalom


s Torah teachers, most of what we impart falls under the rubric of Torah Shebe’al Peh. When asked why so much of our tradition is dependent on an oral transmission, one of the most popular answers is that it is not only the imparting of information that is vital. In order to transmit our mesorah, we must convey the vitality of the text and the near-obsession with God’s Torah that we bring to the classroom. To wit—we must communicate a passion for learning. So much of what shapes our own attitudes towards talmud Torah is predicated on the people who taught us—our parents and our rabbeim. I still see the Rav (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l) during shiur, conducting his well-attested “symphony” of the giants of the mesorah right there in front of our eyes. That my rebbe, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l, adored every word in the Gemara and the Rishonim that he shared was clear to anyone who merited studying with him. We continue teaching because we were taught by passionate scholars who imbued the power of their love for Torah in us in a personal and direct way. We stress an oral tradition because it is impossible to accomplish this sort


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of transmission via the written word. Nonetheless, there are authors who come delightfully close and whose words reveal a love for learning and an excitement of discovery that, somehow, makes its way from the printed page (or monitor) to the heart of the student. Dr. Avigdor Bonchek has done just that with his recently published work on Rashi’s commentary to Chumash, Rashi: The Magic and the Mystery. It is, in a sense, a mini-culmination of Dr. Bonchek’s life avocation (he is a soughtafter therapist in Jerusalem and has worked with many yeshivah and seminary programs). He published a five-volume set on Rashi’s commentary, aptly named “What’s Bothering Rashi?” To this work, he adds this slim but exciting volume, which serves to introduce the curious student to the “ins and outs” of studying Rashi. If anyone thought that studying Rashi’s commentary to Chumash was a simple task, this book will quickly disabuse him of this notion. Conversely, anyone who may have shied away from Rashi because he was under the impression that the exegete’s work was mainly that of an anthologizer of midrashim will be energized to reassess Rashi and to open up the master’s commentary with renewed interest and vigor. After a concise biography of Rashi, Dr. Bonchek goes on to provide a definition of the pregnant word “peshat” in the context of Rashi’s commentary. Rashi famously claims that he “only comes to present the straightforward meaning,” which any student knows is, at least, only half the story. Redefining how peshat might be understood, the author provides a number of examples where a careful reading of the text—especially against the background of the entire Biblical corpus— reveals an oddity that leads to Rashi’s peshat explanation. It would have been helpful if, in addition to citing some of the contemporary English-language scholarship on this aspect of Rashi’s commentary, he had referenced some of the work of Professor Eleazar Touitou and Professor Sarah Kamin. In chapter three, the author proposes an interesting distinction between

two types of comments. Dr. Bonchek suggests that most of Rashi’s comments are responding to something unusual or troubling about the text—he refers to these as “Type I” comments. He also suggests that there are other—rarer— comments in which the text is readable as is. Nonetheless, Rashi is concerned that the reader will misunderstand the meaning of the text and, as such, guides the reader to a proper understanding – “Type II” comments. Dr. Bonchek beautifully illustrates each point he makes by citing verses, identifying the potential misunderstanding or problem and then showing how Rashi exegetically preempts it. His examples of the two “Types” are most illuminating. In subsequent chapters, we are introduced to a defense of Rashi’s explanation of familiar words and his use of midrash. As any serious student knows, Rashi rarely quotes midrashim verbatim. He often selects one of several midrashic approaches and sometimes “rewrites” the midrash for his audience. The author does a masterful job of demonstrating, again using examples, how Rashi does this and what he is communicating through this process of editing. Chapter six is intriguing—it addresses Rashi’s sub vervo or dibbur hamatchil, the words from the text that Rashi selects to

“If anyone thought that studying Rashi’s commentary to Chumash was a simple task, this book will quickly disabuse him of this notion.”

lead off his commentary. The author shows how Rashi chose these words deliberately and what the words contribute to the comment that follows. The following chapter introduces a new actor to our drama. Rashi’s illustrious grandson, Rabbi

Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam), who was briefly mentioned in the first chapter, was his student and, per Rabbi Shmuel’s own testimony (at Genesis 37:2), challenged Rashi about his approach to parshanut. Chapter seven is devoted to their disputes, as can be seen through their differing comments on particular verses; based on Rashbam’s programmatic comments, the author suggests a reason for each of these disputes as being in conformity with each one’s overall approach to exegesis. Dr. Bonchek concludes his work with a chapter on the importance of questioning Rashi. He elicits several examples of comments that seem to be vulnerable to challenge—encouraging and inviting the question—and he then defends them against the challenges. This chapter would have been far richer had the author introduced us to the literature of super-commentaries on Rashi, such as

“Dr. Bonchek beautifully illustrates each point he makes by citing verses, identifying the potential misunderstanding or problem and then showing how Rashi exegetically preempts it.”

Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrahi and the Maharal (Gur Aryeh). On a more contemporaneous level, it would have been helpful to see examples of how later medievalists cited Rashi—only to challenge him! Throughout the book, Dr. Bonchek poses challenges to the reader—a sort of “drill-exercise” on that chapter’s topic. Thankfully, an appendix at the end includes his answers to these puzzlers. This is, to borrow a phrase from Rabbi Moshe Besdin, a “delicious” treatment of Rashi; the reader will find much here to savor and will be motivated to reengage Rashi’s commentary on more sophisticated, passionate terms. The author’s love for Torat Hashem and for the commentary of its most famous exegete come shining through in this slim, valuable volume. Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom is chair of the Tanakh Department at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. He podcasts a Daf Yomi shiur, has hundreds of shiurim available online on Tanach and is the author of the series Between the Lines of the Bible (Urim /OU Press).

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Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION


MODERN ORTHODOX JUDAISM: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY (JPS ANTHOLOGIES OF JEWISH THOUGHT) By Zev Eleff Foreword by Jacob J. Schacter The Jewish Publication Society Philadelphia, 2016 570 pages

Reviewed by Leonard Matanky


s a rabbi, one of my least favorite questions is: “So Rabbi, how ‘modern’ is he?” It’s a question I am asked all too often, especially when consulted about a potential shidduch, and it’s a question that causes me to cringe. Because the word “modern” in this query has nothing to do with a young man’s proficiency with technology, language or even his awareness of the world around him. Rather, the usage of the word “modern” is a reference to the level of a person’s personal halachic observance, and unwittingly creates an adverse reflection on the heart and soul of “Modern Orthodoxy”—its commitment to Torah values and halachic observance. But what distinguishes “Modern Orthodoxy” from Orthodoxy? Is it a movement or is it merely “the other”—the Orthodoxy that is not open or closed, allinclusive or all-exclusive? In the late 60s Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, then the rabbi of The Jewish Center in New York City, articulated a vision for Modern Orthodoxy. In


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his words, Modern Orthodoxy was a movement centered on “our full commitment to Torah tradition and our openness, at the same time, to the wider culture of the world around us.” It is this vision that drove Modern Orthodoxy forward, first in the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first century. Yet, it is this vision that is broad enough to be debated, challenged and held aloft by both traditionalists within the Modern Orthodox camp and their challengers. It is for this reason that Dr. Zev Eleff’s recent contribution to the study of Modern Orthodoxy and its history entitled Modern Orthodox Judaism: A Documentary History is so critical. Not because it provides answers, but rather because it raises questions and creates a context for conversation. Through more than 150 documents covering nearly 200 years of American Jewish history, Dr. Eleff guides the reader through the controversies and the challenges, the issues and the debates that formed the American Jewish community that identifies itself as Modern Orthodox. The book is divided into three parts, with carefully organized sections and subsections. Each document and section in this history is introduced with a brief essay by Dr. Eleff, in which he provides context and commentary. The documents come from a very wide range of sources, including advertisements, speeches, essays, newspapers, letters and proclamations. Part I addresses the responses of Orthodoxy in early America to the emergence of a Reform Judaism that rejected the Oral Law, Talmud and Codes. From documents from the 1820s, we learn of the early battles in Charleston, home to the first established Reform community, and the struggles to maintain commitment to halachah. (For further information on this and other early struggles in American Judaism, consult Dr. Eleff’s other recent and outstanding book—the groundbreaking history of early American Judaism, Who Rules the Synagogue? Religious Authority and the Formation of American Judaism [New York, 2016].) This section concludes with the founding of the Jewish Theological Seminary,

which was in many ways the Orthodox response to Reform Judaism. As Dr. Eleff notes, this response did not draw clear lines and therefore, kept alive the debate for another generation or two “of what could and could not count for Orthodox Judaism in the United States and opened a pathway for a new movement in American Judaism.” Part II of Dr. Eleff’s book begins with “The Arrival of Eastern European Immigrants” at end of the nineteenth century and continues into the midtwentieth century. During those years Orthodoxy in America began to become institutionalized with the founding of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), the Young Israel Movement, Yeshiva College, Hebrew Theological College and Jewish day schools. It is in that era that Orthodoxy parted ways with the Conservative movement, and in two fascinating chapters in this section we find documents addressing two critical issues: “Mixed Seating and ‘Modern Orthodoxy’” and strong positions taken against various people and groups deemed to be outside of Orthodoxy—“Heresy Hunting.” In this latter section there is a translation of the document excommunicating then JTS professor and founder of the Reconstructionist movement, Mordechai Kaplan. However, it would have been interesting to have also included a document related to the attempts to merge JTS and Yeshiva University that were scuttled because of Kaplan’s role at JTS. Unlike the beginning of the book, which deals in large measure with the parting of ways between the American Orthodox and their Reform counterparts; and unlike Part II, which covers the parting of ways between the Orthodox and their Conservative counterparts, it is Part III, entitled “A Modern Orthodox Movement,” that addresses the distinction of a uniquely Modern Orthodox community. Featuring the thoughts and ideas of many of the towering figures who fought for the heart and soul of the nascent Modern Orthodox movement, this final section includes documents by Rabbi Samuel Belkin, Rabbi Oscar Z. Fasman,

Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, Rabbi Lamm, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Rabbi Emanuel Rackman and Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, to name just a few. These were the people, together with many others, who built on the foundations of the first half of the twentieth century and oversaw the growth of YU, the explosion of kashrut and day schools, and the interface with Religious Zionism and American society. Unlike the first two parts of this work, it is this third part which continues to be written. To Dr. Eleff’s credit, he includes documents authored as late as 2014 covering topics such as the painful rabbinic scandals that have wounded our community; the question of women’s roles in communal life; the emergence of “Open Orthodoxy” and the challenge that Professor Samuel Heilman has studied in depth of “Sliding to the Right.” While this section, as was true of the previous two, is well researched and presents documents that need to be considered, it is this final third that leaves me wanting. Perhaps it is my personal penchant for optimism that is at play, but I would have also liked to see documents that celebrate our accomplishments, especially in the concluding pages that focus on the twenty-first century. Perhaps a document on the Rav’s introduction of serious Talmud study for women. What of the transformation of North American aliyah via Nefesh B’Nefesh? Or the 2013 Pew study’s findings regarding the economics of the Modern Orthodox community? What of the expanded role of YU and its Center for the Jewish Future? Or the appearance of Koren Publishers as a competitor to ArtScroll? What of the Modern Orthodox community and American politics—the crucial role of the OU Advocacy Center or even Senator Joseph Lieberman’s run for vice president? And the list of Modern Orthodoxy’s positive growth and achievement in the twentyfirst century goes on. For while Dr. Eleff notes that “the history of Modern Orthodox Judaism is one that moves in cycles and with a dynamic penchant for ‘change,’” I would suggest that Modern Orthodoxy has not moved up and down in a cyclical fashion. Rather, Modern Orthodoxy continues to defy all of the predictions of doom and moves forward, sometimes resting at a plateau, but moving forward. True there are challenges, and there are serious issues yet to be resolved, but Modern Orthodoxy has and continues to serve as the sacred center of our American community. Modern Orthodox Judaism: A Documentary History is an outstanding contribution to the study of our community. I commend Dr. Eleff for producing a work that is accessible, engaging, thought-provoking and a gateway to further investigation and inquiry. But even more, this is a book that brings honor to the word “Modern,” as it demonstrates how the Modern Orthodox community has played a critical role in the spreading of Torah while continuing the sacred struggle to help us become ever greater ovdei Hashem.


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Rabbi Leonard Matanky is the rabbi of Congregation KINS of West Rogers Park in Chicago.

Spring 5777/2017 JEWISH ACTION





ow do you celebrate a holiday dedicated to memory when a person’s memory is fading? That was the challenge my mother faced a couple decades ago. Her sister Henrietta, in her eighties, in the throes of Alzheimer’s disease, was living her final years in a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Batavia, New York, halfway between Rochester, where Aunt Henny had spent most of her adult life, and Buffalo, where she and Mom had grown up. Aunt Henny, who had not had children of her own but was a second mother to me and my two younger sisters, left Rochester as a senior citizen, returning to Buffalo to live several years. She had been in the US Army during World War II; Mom had volunteered for the Navy; the siblings, Mom would tell us, “were the talk” of Buffalo’s Orthodox East Side—two Jewish girls, from a family of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox immigrants from present-day Belarus, leaving home to serve in military uniforms. Aunt Henny, older than Mom by more than a decade, had a more-traditional bent, keeping a kosher home, joining a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Rochester walking distance from her home and hosting Seders to which I and my sisters were sometimes invited. When she later moved back to Buffalo, she always joined my family’s Seder, which I had led since I was a kid—Dad, who grew up in Berlin’s heavily secular environment, knew neither Hebrew nor the basics of Pesach. Each year Aunt Henny would help Mom unpack crates of kosher l’Pesach dishes and utensils, lend a hand in the weeks before yom tov in preparing kosher food for the Sedarim and the rest of the holiday, and sit at our Seder table, taking her turn in reading from the Haggadah.


JEWISH ACTION Spring 5777/2017

By Steve Lipman Then Alzheimer’s arrived. Eventually, no longer able to care for herself in an assisted living facility, Aunt Henny moved into the VA hospital, for which she was eligible as a veteran. The food there wasn’t kosher; Aunt Henny would eschew obvious treif items; finally, as the disease progressed, she had no idea what she was eating. Mom, driving to the hospital or taking a shuttle van a few times a week, would bring kosher snacks. At one point, Mom wasn’t sure if Aunt Henny recognized her—or any oncefamiliar faces. Words failed Aunt Henny, conversations were limited. Her memory, Mom said, “wasn’t there.” Came Pesach. The VA hospital provided wonderful care, but there would be no Seder there. Aunt Henny was the only Jew in the wards. Mom was determined that her sister would have a Seder—no matter how much, or how little, Aunt Henny understood. The Seder would have to take place before the start of Pesach, since Mom wanted to be back home for the Seder that she was leading in my absence—I had moved away, and was spending the chag with friends in a frum neighborhood in the Greater New York area. If the timing wasn’t perfect, Mom’s sentiments were—Pesach would not pass unnoticed by Aunt Henny. Mom drove by herself to Batavia—Dad, in failing health, wasn’t up to the trip. She loaded the car with kosher food she had made, paper plates and plastic utensils, boxes of matzah and bottles of grape juice, a dish of homemade charoset, chicken soup, a Seder plate, candles and a few Haggadahs. “Everything for the Seder,” Mom said.

At the hospital she unloaded the supplies and carried them to a private room that the nurses had set up. A white lace tablecloth covered the table. Out came the plates. A Catholic couple sat at the table with Mom and Aunt Henny; the husband, a fellow VA hospital patient, had attended a Seder in Italy with a Jewish GI friend during World War II and had fond memories. He, wearing a kippah that Mom had brought, and his wife were delighted to join the festivities. Mom offered a little explanation about what would take place. Then, a stickler for reading every word of the Haggadah, mostly in English, she began the Seder. She wasn’t sure how much would penetrate Aunt Henny’s Alzheimer’s fog. Aunt Henny was mostly silent. Then came the Seder’s opening berachot. Suddenly, Aunt Henny joined in, in Hebrew. “She started singing the prayers,” the ones she had heard at the Finkelsteins’ Seder table in Buffalo some eight decades earlier. Aunt Henny didn’t sing all the prayers, Mom said, but more than she would have expected. The Catholic guests at the table “were surprised” by Aunt Henny’s sudden liveliness. Otherwise, Aunt Henny did not participate in reading the Haggadah. How do you explain this Pesach miracle? Short-term memory is the first victim of Alzheimer’s, doctors say, while some longterm memories remain intact. And music often spurs memory. Mom has another, simple explanation. “Some things you never forget.” Steve Lipman is a staff writer at the Jewish Week in New York and a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.

Jewish Action Spring 2017  

The Magazine of the Orthodox Union

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